Metro Nashville police use GPS to track gang members

Brian Haas (The Tennessean) | March 3, 2011

Metro police have begun using GPS units typically reserved for the state’s most dangerous sex offenders to track gang members.

Police and the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole announced a pilot program on Thursday that will track 10 convicted gang members to keep them out of “exclusion zones,” areas their respective gangs have been known to frequent. Gang members found in those zones could face more jail time.

“We know where you are, every second, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” said Charles Traughber, chairman of Probation and Parole.

Members from a variety of gangs were chosen because they were deemed likely to continue to cause problems, with previous convictions on charges ranging from blankault and weapons violations to selling cocaine. Among the gang members identified by police now being monitored by GPS units are members of the Gangster Disciples, the Vice Lords, the Bloods and the Crips.

“These names of these folks have continuously been on our radar,” said Lt. Gordon Howey, head of Metro police’s Gang Unit. “These folks tend to reoffend.”

Together, police and probation employees mapped out territories where each gang was known to cause problems and banned the gang members from those areas. When a gang member enters that area, gang detectives will be alerted. And if they dawdle too long, police and probation officers will intervene.

For serious violations, the offender could be arrested and forced to return to jail or prison and serve the remainder of his sentence.

Tactic questioned

The new measure could invite challenges from defense attorneys, though. Tommy Overton, a longtime Nashville criminal defense attorney, said police branding someone a gang member is troubling.

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