Tuesday, 26 January 2016 16:23

Injunction Declares Binghampton Gangs Public Nuisances

Multi-Agency Gang Unit of Western TN (MGU) Multi-Agency Gang Unit of Western TN (MGU)
MEMPHIS, TN – Jan. 26, 2016 - A court injunction has been issued banning two violent street gangs from gathering to commit crimes in the Binghampton area, Shelby County Dist. Atty. Gen. Amy Weirich said Tuesday.
A nuisance petition filed by the DA’s Office says the Grape Street Crips and the Vice Lords have been involved in drug trafficking, assaults, robberies and other violent crimes in the Binghampton area, with their territories divided by Tillman Street.
The gangs’ illegal activity often occurs near Howze Park and within 1,000 feet of Lester Elementary School. While operating in close proximity, the two gangs were more likely to commit crimes together than against one another, according to Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MGU) officers.
The playground has been tagged with gang graffiti by members seeking to assert ownership of the area. The petition also cites acts of domestic violence by gang members, a crime that is based on the same gang hallmarks --- power and control. The petition seeking to declare the gangs public nuisances and creating a Safety Zone was approved and signed by General Sessions/Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter. “These gangs have conducted their reign of terror on this community for too long,” said Gen. Weirich. “The law-abiding citizens of Binghampton have a right to feel safe in their own neighborhood and in their own homes. That is what we aim to accomplish with this nuisance petition and the creation of this Safety Zone.”
The Safety Zones are the fifth and sixth – identifying five separate gangs - created through the filing of public-nuisance petitions that address neighborhoods and apartment complexes plagued by gangs and their illegal activities. The injunction identifies the gangs as public nuisances and bans its members from associating in public, even if only in pairs. They can be arrested on the spot for violating terms of the injunction. Members have been identified and placed on notice. The injunction also offers members a procedure allowing them to “opt out” or voluntarily leave the gang.
The injunction also bans gang members from intimidating members of the public, some of whom have been reluctant to report crimes or come to court to testify against gang members. Despite the concerted efforts of law enforcement, the gangs have been undeterred.
“Residents and other citizens in the area have voiced their safety concerns to MGU officers,” according to the petition, signed by Gen. Weirich, Asst. Dist. Atty. Colin Campbell and former City Atty. Herman Morris. “Many of these individuals complain of fighting, gambling, drug sales, robbery and frequent gunshots. Children are not allowed in the park at certain times as the park is not safe. Individuals opt to stay inside rather than venture outside.”
City Atty. Bruce McMullen, recently appointed by Mayor Jim Strickland, signed the court order.
The boundaries for the Safety Zones for the Vice Lords and the Grape Street Crips are outlined in detail in the petition.
Other Safety Zones have been created in the Riverside neighborhood just south of Downtown, the old Dixie Homes area north of the Medical Center, and in the Ridgecrest and Greenbriar apartments in Frayser.
In a separate nuisance petition last month, the Tillman Food and Deli at 245 Tillman St. was closed because of illegal gang activity on the premises, including drug trafficking, assaults, fighting and intimidation of the public. The owner named in the petition chose to close permanently.
Under Tennessee nuisance law, the District Attorney General has authority to bring a civil action against any establishment deemed a nuisance.
The statute defines a nuisance, in part, as “any place in or upon which. . .unlawful sale of any regulated legend drug, narcotic or other controlled substance. . .quarrelling, drunkenness, fighting or breaches of the peace are carried on or permitted."
The Multi-Agency Gang Unit consists of a board of directors; an advisory committee; an operations team and a prosecution team. The MGU Board of Directors is comprised of: United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Edward L. Stanton, III Todd McCall, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of InvestigationStephen Gerido, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ExplosivesShelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich, (Chairperson of the Board) Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong
The MGU Advisory committee is presently comprised of representatives from various federal, state and local governmental agencies. The MGU Board of Directors can agree to add members to the Advisory Committee. The MGU’s Operations Team currently includes officers and agents from area cities, counties and state and federal law enforcement agencies who have committed resources to the unit. The MGU Operations Team Commander is MPD Lieutenant Darren Goods. The MGU Prosecution Team consists of Assistant United States Attorneys from the Western District and Assistant District Attorneys from the Shelby County District Attorney’s Gang and Narcotics Prosecution Unit. The MGU Prosecution Team Commander is Ray Lepone, Chief Prosecutor of the Shelby County District Attorney General’s Gang and Narcotics Prosecution Unit.
The statute defines a nuisance, in part, as “any place in or upon which. . .unlawful sale of any regulated legend drug, narcotic or other controlled substance. . .quarrelling, drunkenness, fighting or breaches of the peace are carried on or permitted."
Similar investigations by law enforcement have resulted in the D.A.’s office filing nuisance petitions against the owners of more than 200 residential and business properties.
Some have resulted in permanent closure of the properties while others have reopened under consent orders to curb the crime.