SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Smith County will soon be home to one of Texas’ newest anti-gang centers.
Last spring, Governor Greg Abbott signed off on plans for an East Texas Anti-Gang Center. Smith County Sheriff, Larry Smith, said the Texas Anti-Gang (TAG) center should be up and running by March 1.
“[DPS] Director McCraw said ‘Sheriff, have you thought about a tag?’ and I’ll admit I said, ‘what’s a tag?’ because we hadn’t heard of them here in East Texas,” said Smith.
The task force will be made up of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies working together under one roof, accord to Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith. The team would focus on gathering intelligence and enforcement of any violent crimes that have any connection to gang activity.
Governor Greg Abbott called for the expansion of the state’s anti-gang centers in Feb. 2019. One of the two proposed centers would be in Tyler and would cover the Northeast Texas area.
A gang threat analysis report by Texas DPS shows East Texas to be a place where gangs are active.
“DPS, in their annual report said per capita, Northeast Texas was the largest gang activity of anywhere in the state,” said Smith.
According to the 2018 DPS gang threat assessment, the most significant gangs in North Texas include bloods, crips, and the Aryan Circle.
“We have the traditional gangs, we have the cartels, we have the white supremacist gangs, we have multiple Aryan Brotherhood here,” said Smith. “We have some in the jail, at this time.”
Smith said the presence of gangs in East Texas needs to change.
“The end game on this is to make Smith County and all Northeast Texas safer for the citizens — a safer place to live, better place to raise a family, better place to start a business and push all the gangs back to where they came from,” said Smith. “It’s going to take a concerted effort of all the federal state and local law enforcement under one roof working closely together to do that.”
Smith said he expects to see some definite change with the new center up and running. He said it may take some time, but he believes it’ll be a game changer.