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KPD fields questions from firearm group about gang violence

9:05 AM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
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KPD Investigator Jim Quick gives a presentation to the local TFA chapter

Knoxville police say they responded to a half-dozen shootings in recent days, during which seven people were injured. 

The violence has prompted several questions from 10News viewers wanting to know if the gunfire is related to gang violence, and how prevalent gangs are in Knoxville.

Earlier this week, KPD spokesman Darrell DeBusk said gang violence is not a major problem in this area. Also, KPD has not announced that any recent shootings are gang-related.

KPD reports the number of shootings in the first three months of this year is actually lower when compared to the same time last year. From January to March 2012, KPD responded to 21 shootings, with three homicides. This year, the number of shootings is 19, with three homicides.

Still, some East Tennessee residents are curious about the violence and its possible connection to gangs. Several weeks ago, the local chapter of the Tennessee Firearms Association requested a guest speaker from law enforcement to discuss the issue at the group's April monthly meeting.

Tuesday evening, TFA members got their opportunity to ask questions.

Jack Bissette wanted to learn more about drugs and gangs.

"I just saw something recently in Fox News about the drug cartel from Mexico coming into the southeast United States," he said.

"I'm landlord, and I rent properties," explained another member, Ray Bergeron. "And if I were to have somebody looking to see if they can rent from me and I could see them wearing the colors that indicate affiliation with a gang, I would not rent to them. I want to be aware of the situation that might be coming about before I have to react to it."

Jim Quick, an investigator with the KPD Gang and Intelligence Unit, gave the group an hour-long presentation about area gang affiliations, symbols, and demographics. Quick says there are about 1,100 adult gang members in the Knox County area, and about 150 juveniles involved in gang activity.

Among those numbers, he says about 98 percent are male, and 60 percent are between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. Quick's data shows 55 percent of local gang members are black, 40 percent are white, and three percent are Hispanic.

As he fielded questions, Quick also reaffirmed KPD's earlier statement about the issue.

"It's a low percentage if you're talking about total crime in Knoxville," he said, then added, "But in my opinion, if you've got any gang crime it's a problem."

After the speech, TFA members spoke about what they will take away from the discussion.

"I've seen some of the graffiti not too far from my house. So that makes me think, okay, we need to be more cautious about these folks," said member Liston Matthews.

"The fact that there could be a lot of our youth that's being affected," said Bissett. "Distantly, the 'wannabes' per-say, even though they may not be an organized gang."

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