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New law designed to crack down on gang activity

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Gang members who commit crimes could spend more time in prison thanks to a new state law intended to cut down on gang activity across Tennessee.

Davidson County Assistant District Attorney Rob McGuire has been prosecuting gang members for years.

"We know that gangs in Nashville are responsible for a significant amount of violence," said McGuire.

It's hard to say how many gang members are out there, but they easily number in the hundreds.

Now if prosecutors can legally connect a felony crime to a criminal gang, he can ask for a harsher sentence.

"Whether it's a murder, a robbery, drug sales, we can often connect that criminal act to a larger criminal enterprise. It's difficult to do because of the nature of the kind of proof that it is," said McGuire.

The violence caused by gangs can grip a neighborhood in fear, and finding residents who will testify can be a challenge

"What we want them to know is that we are partners in this, and we don't forget about people who try to defend their own neighborhood," said McGuire.

One concern criminal lawyers have about the law is the fear of putting other people's civil liberties at risk.

"That's why this law does require us to make showings in court of how we can prove this person is a gang member, so we don't involve ourselves in so he's this color or this race," said McGuire.

For Metro Police's gang unit, the law is an essential component in taking back neighborhoods at risk.

"Citizens and lawmakers are tired of their constituents being victims. If putting them in jail is what it takes to get the point, that what we'll do," said Stephen Duncan of the Metro's Gang Unit.

The new law took effect July 1.

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