NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The opioid epidemic is creating a demand for painkillers and heroin that street gangs are working to supply.
Charles Consiglio is a narcotics detective in Springfield and also spent years working as a gang detective.
He has taken note of the way opiates have changed the way gangs operate.
“I was looking on one gang member’s Facebook page and he had a picture. It is of a shirt that says his flag is red, my flag is blue, our flag is green, and it has dollar signs on the shirt,” Det. Consiglio explained.
He continued, “These guys aren’t necessarily looking at colors anymore. It is not really that important. They have evolved beyond affiliation.”
Consiglio said on the street that cooperation is called “mobbing.”
“The opiate problem is not just here; it’s everywhere,” he told News 2. “Opioid crisis becomes a heroin problem because you pay $50 or $60 for one pill, but you can get a whole lot of heroin for $50 or $60.”
According to the U.S. Justice Department, gangs increasingly are involved in smuggling cocaine, marijuana, heroin, methamphetamine, and MDMA (also known as ecstasy) into the United States from foreign sources of supply.
The Justice Department also said local street gangs in rural, suburban, and urban areas pose a low but growing threat.
They transport and distribute drugs within very specific areas. These gangs often imitate the larger, more powerful national gangs in order to gain respect from rivals.
Some gangs collect millions of dollars per month selling illegal drugs, trafficking weapons, operating prostitution rings, and selling stolen property.
In Springfield, the police department, Robertson County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies partnered with federal officials to target the most violent gang members in the area.
In 2014, Springfield was one of the 10 most violent towns in Tennessee.
The ATF helped investigators their build federal drug and weapons cases against gang members.
“When they go into a Federal court they get sentenced to a federal prison,” Springfield Police Chief David Thompson said. “They are going to do their sentence day for day so if they are sentenced to 10 years they are going to be in prison for a long time.”
That collaboration helped Springfield achieve a reduction in crime, and the town has not had a murder in the last two years.
“Fortunately the ATF is not just firearms anymore they kind of opened up and are helping us as far as funding goes,” Detective Consiglio said. “Let’s be honest it gets expensive to buy felony amounts of those high end narcotics because people are not going to do that for free.”
The ATF has created a free app for your phone called “reportit.” It allows you to anonymously report gang, gun, explosives or drug activity. Click here to read more and download the app.