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Plan to Rid Parks of Gangs One Step Closer to State Law -- Eric Alvarez

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. A state bill aiming to rid neighborhood parks of gang members is getting support from lawmakers and local communities but some in the community including a former gang member say its just one of many solutions necessary to fight the gang problem in Tennessee.

The Community Safety Act is on its way to the Tennessee house and senate floors, after passing the house civil justice committee and the senate judiciary committee.

     Helicopters overhead and sirens in the distance are nothing new for Xavier Jackson

"I was a Crip, Jackson said.

Jackson didnt join the gang on the street but rather his in school when he was only 14 years old.

Jackson says he never knew his father, and that's why he was drawn to the only male role models he knew.  He stayed a Crip until his uncle, came home after an eight-year stint in prison with some advice that changed Jacksons life.

This woman could be your wife, this man could be your best friend but you would never know that," Jackson said.  "Why? Because you're killing each other over colors."

Jackson managed to walk away from the gang, but every day, Tennessee kids even younger than he was when he started step into the gang life.

What we're finding is that some kids are younger when they start being interested or curious about gang activity, said Wendy Buchanan, chief probation officer with the Davidson County Juvenile Court.

The department joined forces with metro police to fighting gang influence by reaching kids as early as elementary school.
 
The best way to address gang situations is to strengthen communities and families and give kids a healthy and safe environment to grow up in, Buchanan said.

Sponsors of the Community Safety Act say the bill aims to do that by keeping gangs off certain public areas.

"We're trying to make it state wide, said Sen. Bo Watson R-Hixson.  It will have most applications in the large urban areas where this is a problem but i think it's really a positive step in taking back our streets and neighborhoods.

Jackson who fell into the wrong crowd because he didn't have a dad to look up to, now, has a baby girl of his own.

"It pretty much changed me, Jackson said.  Now I have to set an example."

He says the best way to fight gangs is one family at a time.

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