Do Gangs Exist in Knoxville?

By: Whitney Daniel
By: Whitney Daniel

Knoxville (WVLT) - Recent shootings on Knoxville's east side have many wondering who's responsible.

Are they isolated incidents, drug-related, or the results of gangs fighting for street control?

A KPD spokesperson says Knoxville doesn't have any organized gangs, so that's not the problem.

Whitney Daniel went into an east side neighborhood today to investigate.

Residents we spoke with didn't want to talk about gangs, they're really not sure if they exist, but they say they have seen an increase in violence in their community.

The sheriff's department says it's not illegal to be involved in a gang in Tennessee, but if you are, and you get into criminal trouble, your gang affiliation could bring you more penalties if you're convicted.

"It's really scary because you never know what will happen... so you might drive down the street and get shot at," Tonya Wilson works at Five Points Plaza.

She took the job because the plaza was built in an effort to curb violence in her community, but lately, it's picked back up.

"If one thing happens, a chain reaction, then something else happen or soon as that happens, couple days later it just keeps going," Tonya lives in East Knoxville, an area that's become home to increased violence and law enforcement says increased gang activity.

"Rival gangs are fighting over control of the Walter P. Homes and Martin Luther King area," Officer Walker works in the Sheriff's Department's Gang Unit. Over the years, he's been tracking more than 1,400 individuals associated with gangs in Knox County.

"By fighting over control, they will assault each other, rob each other, drive-by shootings, home invasions. We've seen all this take place in the last six months," says Walker.

And with recent violence in East Knoxville, they're not ruling out a gang-connection in those incidents.

"It's a criminal organization out to victimize people who live in the area," Walker says.

"So, there's a problem with gangs in East Knoxville?" asks Daniel.

"Oh, yeah. Absolutely," says Walker.

With that in mind, Tonya will use her position to become a positive role model for her neighbors. "I took this just because it was in a neighborhood and helping out and it was something new and I wanted to be a part of that, that's why I took this job."

Officer Walker keeps files of every person associated with a gang for the past two years, he has a database of people affiliated with more than 40 gangs in Knox County.

He works closely with KPD and TBI to keep track of gang activity in the area.

He also says he needs your help, though.

They've set up an anonymous hotline for you to use to give them any information that might help them stop gang violence in your neighborhood.

That number is: 215-2244.


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