Lebanon police look to fight gangs by keeping kids out

The Lebanon Police Department wants to fight back against gangs by helping keep their city's children out of them.

Lebanon residents can attend a community workshop Tuesday night designed to inform parents, educators and others about gangs and how to keep their kids out of them.

The workshop will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Journey Church on the corner of Leeville Pike and South Maple Street.

The workshop will detail the different types of gangs, local gangs, why young people join them and early indicators of why children want to join them.

According to The Wilson Post, following the workshop, participants will be able to voice their concerns during a question-and-answer session and will also have to opportunity to talk with authorities one-on-one.

Police Chief Scott Bowen talked of the growing issue with gangs, adding that they've more recently moved into smaller and more rural areas, such as Lebanon.

The Lebanon Police Department, along with several other police departments including Metro-Nashville, Sparta and Cookeville, conducted a joint investigation into activities of the Vice Lords gang. Eleven of 17 members gave a Lebanon addresses.

Officials are hoping the workshop will help young people make good choices and sound decisions, by telling them of the consequences of making bad ones.

According to Bowen, the workshop might eventually become an annual event.

As the City of Lebanon and the FBI prepare for the gang informational meeting Tuesday night, police in the Wilson County town point to a measure may be cutting down on gang activity.

Since April, Officer Dana “Scooter” Sandefur has been walking, riding a bike and driving his patrol car through Lebanon's five public housing projects that are considered tied to gang activity “in one way or another.”

On Tuesday Nashville's News 2 walked and rode with Sandefur as he made his rounds through three of the public housing projects that are all less than a mile or two to the north and east from the Lebanon Public Square.

“Building trust with the people who live here is the biggest thing,” said Sandefur who is on his second stint with Lebanon police after working private security in Iraq until April.

“There has not been a shooting, stabbing or any violent crime in any of the public housing here since two hours before I began my first shift in April,” said the officer as he walked through the area just north of the Wilson County Criminal Justice Center known as Upton Heights.

“I take pride in that,” he added.

The officer said he keeps no set schedule for what he is doing that is generally called “community policing.”

“I may be here a few hours during the day and few hours at night, weekends or weekends, they never know,” said the officer.

Many residents of the public housing we spoke to said they like it that way.

“Bad guys don't know his moves then,” said one elderly resident who did not want his name used. “He's doing his job.”

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