- Yes 79%
- No 21%
212 total votes.
Chattanooga police officers may see some gang members standing on street corners selling drugs, but rarely do they see Gangster Disciples operating that way.
Maybe once a year will a Gangster Disciple be found peddling drugs in the open, officers said.
“It takes more investigative skills to catch them,” said Officer Michael Bolton with the Chattanooga Police Department’s crime suppression unit. “It’s not that they’re not doing any less crime. They’re trying to be smarter on how they do it. They try to go about their business very secretively.”
In addition to covert activity, Gangster Disciples also have a chain of command and defined leaders. Rarely do Gangster Disciple members spout their mouths about activities and operations. One leader talks, if at all, Sgt. Royval said.
By contrast, the other main gangs in Chattanooga — the Bloods and the Crips — do not profess allegiance to one leader, do not pay dues back to a home organization and are more likely to be found practicing illegal activity in the open.
“You’ve got the Bloods that are just shoot ’em up, do whatever you can,” said Sgt. Todd Royval, supervisor of the crime suppression unit, which monitors gang activity.
The Gangster Disciples have a strong influence, especially in the South, on the newest, nationwide gang trend that involves hybrid gangs, which represent a mixture of various philosophies and loose allegiances, said Steve Nawoj-czyk, a gang expert from Little Rock, Ark., who formerly served on the Arkansas Attorney General’s Youth Gang Task Force.
Hybrid gangs pose more danger because they lack the leadership to control younger, more volatile members, he said.
“They form from neighborhood groups and have no real connection to hardcore gangs,” he said.
Trends also show that gangs are growing rapidly in suburban and rural areas across all races and socioeconomic classes, Mr. Nawojczyk said.
“Gangs can flourish in areas where there is less community resistance many times because of a lack of understanding by all in the community,” he said.
origin in chicago
The Gangster Disciples evolved from a combination of two Chicago-based gangs in the 1970s and represent one of the largest gangs nationwide. A task force investigating the gang in the mid-’90s found the group was making more than $100 million each year in illegal drug sales, according to Know Gangs, a leading training provider for law enforcement, educators and social service workers seeking to enhance their knowledge about gangs, drugs and school violence.
Nationally, Gangter Disciples want their members to stay in school and earn medical or law degrees to help other members out should they need medical or legal assistance, Sgt. Royval said.
“It makes it easier” for members, he said. “It’s kind of like the mob. There are businessmen in the mob helping launder money and all that criminal enterprise.”
bloods, crips more loosely organized
The Blood and the Crips, meanwhile, are loosely organized in Chattanooga and have little to connect them to other gangs that share their names.
“Some of our gangs have names of gangs formed in California, but they really don’t have ties that go back there,” Sgt. Royval said.
The Crips originated in Los Angeles, and the Bloods formed from several smaller gangs there to combat the Crips in the early 1970s.
Hispanic gangs recently have grown more visible in Chattanooga. Officers have seen more Hispanic graffiti marking gang territory, Sgt. Royval said. While other gangs form as drug operations or to make money, Hispanic gangs form more for protection, Officer Bolton said.
Females also are affiliating with all Chattanooga gangs, which individually are comprised of black, white and Hispanic members. While not full-fledged members, females are called “associates” of gangs and often do the “dirty work” for other members, including getting revenge or working drug deals, said Lt. Tim Carroll, head of the Chattanooga police major crimes division.
Police also see members join gangs before they become teenagers.
Younger members also are asked to commit crimes and take the fall for adult gang members because youths face less severe penalties than adults, he added.