Tracking tattoos to fight gang problem? - WSMV Channel 4

Tracking tattoos to fight gang problem?

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- A Tennessee lawmaker wants to tattoos considered a form of child abuse and he hopes a new law will actually help stop some of the gang violence across the state.

We've gotten a lot of response on this topic on our Facebook page from many saying they disagree with this theory. Channel 3 went around to several licensed tattoo shops, where artists say they see first hand that the relation between teens with tattoos and gangs is very strong in the Chattanooga area.

If you want to sit in Chris Camual's chair, he says show your ID or hit the road.

"Individuals tattooing 17 year olds, 14 year olds and we have them coming in here on a regular basis," tattoo artist Chris Camual said.

He says teens come in to get cover-ups after being inked up by an illegal tattooing operation also known as "scratchers."

That's exactly who this proposed law targets. It mirrors state child abuse law. That means if a teacher notices a tattoo on a student, they're required to report it to police just like they're required to report signs of possible child abuse.

What's that have to do with gangs? The idea is that police can then track down these "scratchers" who are branding gang members.

"I'm all for whatever they can do," parent Joe Wilson said.

Parents say tracking tattoos to find gang members is as good idea as any to battle the growing problem of our teens being pulled into the gang life.

"Life is what you make of it. You don't have to choose to go that route," Wilson said.

A father himself, Camual says parents should notice if their teen comes home with a gang tattoo, or any tattoo.

"Know what your child is doing. It's that simple," Camual said.

He's part of a newly formed group called Chattanooga Guild of Professional Tattoo Artists. It's pushing for more laws like this in an effort to get these "scratchers" off the streets and charged with child abuse.

"I think it should. I think it very well should. Scarification of a minor. I mean you are scarring a minor for life," Camual said.

Lobbyists with the Tennessee Education Association say it's putting too much on teachers' plates. Teachers Channel 3 spoke with off camera disagree-- saying they recognize gang tattoos are an indicator and can help lead police in the right direction.

Right now, the proposed law is headed for the legislature.

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