A select number of deputies will be able to cross state lines to arrest gang members under an agreement between the Hamilton County and Walker County sheriff's offices signed Wednesday afternoon.
"The mutual aid agreement specifically states that the officers that are identified by supervisors can cross over into the other jurisdiction as long as they are accompanied by a home officer," Walker County, Ga., Sheriff Steve Wilson said at the signing.
If a Hamilton County suspect crosses over into Walker, he said, deputies "simply notify that officer assigned in Walker County and they will go with them to do the investigation and make the arrest -- whatever needs to be done."
A group of federal and local law enforcement agencies known as Chattanooga Area Gang Enforcement, or CAGE, already meets monthly to share intelligence, said Boyd Patterson, the city's gang suppression coordinator. Both agencies are members.
"This agreement takes that relationship to the next level," he said.
Patterson said he hopes for similar agreements with other agencies in the future. The agreement will last for one year and also was signed by Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Walker County Sole Commissioner Bebe Heiskell.
"It builds on what has been in place for awhile, but this is that next step," Patterson said.
Gang activity in Tennessee has doubled since 2005, he said, citing a recent TBI report.
"Whatever we do today is more effective than if we waited five, six or seven years when it becomes entrenched," Patterson said.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said the agreement is necessary because gang members "know no boundaries."
"State boundaries -- county boundaries -- mean nothing to them," Hammond said.
He said a few officers in each jurisdiction will get commissions allowing them to operate in the other county when investigating gang crimes.
Hammond has said suburban areas of the county have documented an increase presence in gang members.
Wilson, who said the county has two deputies assigned commissions across state lines, said his agency has also noticed an increase.
"By no mean is it out of control or a large problem at this point," he said. "But we don't want it to become more of a problem."