(WMC-TV) – A top ranking member of the West Tennessee Vice Lords broke his code of silence and spoke exclusively with Action News 5 about gang activity and how it is making its way into the suburbs.
"Right now, I'm breaking the code of silence. You can be killed. It's a violation opening your mouth and speaking to the public," said West Tennessee Vice Lord member we will refer to as "Joe".
For 11 years, gang life has been the only life for this West Tennessee Vice Lord.
"They took me in as their seed. That's what they called you. At the age of 13, I was called a young seed," he said.
We are concealing his identity, but not his story or his location.
"Joe" operates in Tipton County.
"Shooting people, killing people, selling dope, bringing money to the table, anything that benefits The Nation," he explained.
"I never thought in my 26 years of law enforcement here in Tipton County that I'd see the gang activity I see here today," said Captain Shannon Beasley, Tipton County Sheriff's Department.
Captain Shannon Beasley says he first started noticing gang activity in Tipton County in the mid-90s. Since then, he said the population has exploded.
His theory for why gangs are moving to the suburbs is all about recruitment. The more land you cover, the more profitable the operation and small towns are often full of idle minds.
"Vice Lords, Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Kitchen Crips, and that's just in our area here," said Beasley.
There is a lot of money to be made in the operation and a lot of guns.
Just steps away from the Covington Police Department you will find Bledsoe Avenue. It is one of the streets featured in a YouTube video giving an inside look into the gang operations in Tipton County. Action News 5's Justin Hanson recognized it immediately – because he grew up in the very same neighborhood.
"Dead homies, houses being shot up, charges," said "Joe".
Justin Hanson asked, "Have you ever been charged with anything?"
"Joe" responded, "Yes, I've been charged with reckless homicide."
He said gang banging in the suburbs is good money. He can make up to $4,000 per week and he has never held a real job in his entire life.
"It's spreading and it's gotten out of control especially in these small towns. Everybody used to think it was just a big city thing. From Memphis all down 51, it's here," explained "Joe".
Now, for what he says is his family's safety, Joe is leaving gang life and is moving away from West Tennessee.
But he says small town gangs are not going anywhere.
"It's been going on before us and will go on after us. When we're dead and gone it's still gonna be here. It's just a new generation...it's about the new generation. It ain't going nowhere," he explained.