(Memphis) It’s the middle of the work day and straight to the streets for a team with one sole mission – gangs.
“It’s around you everyday, all day. Kids have to deal with it in their music, everything that they do,” says Sgt. Michael Pierce with the Multi-Agency Gang Unit.
We know the havoc they wreak, the neighbors who live in fear, the schools that deal with their confrontations.
“This neighborhood was so infested with them. They were shooting and robbing, drug selling,” says Pierce as he drives us through a neighborhood.
On this ride-along, we go deeper into the gang world with the officers who joined forces to fight them, the Multi Agency Gang Unit.
They took WREG to the hotspots for gang activity, showing us what they come face to face with everyday.
One area of the Riverview Community near downtown Memphis was so gang-infested the city set up its first No Gang Zone there.
Gang members caught loitering or gathering with other members can be arrested on the spot.
It doesn’t take long to find a violator.
Thirty-one-year-old Andrew Bowie, a known gang member, is not supposed to commit any crime within the gang free zone.
He doesn’t have a license to drive.
Police pull him over behind the wheel.
“If you commit any kind of crime inside the injunction area, anything inside the injunction area. It’s a violation of the injunction. Injunction says you must obey the law,” one officer says to Bowie.
Breaking the law means jail time.
Bowie’s mother watched from nearby.
She knows her son is in a gang and has been since he was a young boy.
“Yeah he is a 90, but he don’t do what these other young folk do, killing and guns. No I don’t have, to worry about that. I have three and I ain’t shame to tell the news. I got three in the gang. What can I do about it? What can I do about it?” says the gang member’s mother.
She may not be able to control what her sons do, but this gang task force isn’t cutting gang members any slack.
These round-ups can turn up just about anything.
One guy is caught with bags of weed in his car.
“It’s to smoke. That’s what I do is smoke it. I take it out, put in cigar and smoke it,” he tells police.
He says it’s for ‘him’ to smoke.
10.5 grams? Police think otherwise.
Around the corner, another possible gang zone violator takes off running when he sees the cops, tossing something into the trash as he makes a break.
Officers say the word is out today, MAG (Multi Agency Gang Unit) is on the streets, lay low.
And it’s not just neighborhoods – gangs have laid stake in schools.
Shots were fired at one alternative school across from an apartment complex a couple of days ago.
So on this Friday as students are getting out, police are everywhere, and so is the MAG Unit.
“If they recruit your kid at 9 or 10,what is he gonna be like at 16 or 17?” asks Pierce.
“Educate yourself and educate your kids about it. We go out and do presentations, we talk to kids and we talk to adults and we talk to anybody that will listen,” he says.
Kids like one 18-year-old, who has been in and out of trouble since he joined the Crips at age 13.
“What are you a member of ?” we ask him.
“Murder gang. It’s a Crip Gang, a Crip Sect. It will get you in the wrong place at the wrong time,” says the 18-year-old.
He already did a long stint in juvenile custody and is now a suspect in firing shots near a school.
He says he wants out, but it’s not that easy.
“It’s tough to get out? It’s gonna be tough to get out,” he says.
He shuts down when we ask him why, saying we are asking too many questions.
The MAG Unit never quits and the work is paying off.
“Since the injunction changed things, we’ve seen little kids back out riding their bikes. Things have quieted down that much,” says Pierce.
“When they see the Police, the Multi-Agency Gang Unit, come out they are somewhat relieved, but they need to be able to see more of us,” says Lt. Anthony Carter, who leads the MAG Unit.
They may see more.
There are plans to expand the No Gang Zones to other neighborhoods, giving the Multi Agency Gang Task Force more ground to cover.
Since the MAG Unit started in July of 2012, it’s made 734 arrests and identified 450 new gang members.