CONYERS, Ga. — As Atlanta Police continue to investigate what they are saying is a gang-related murder of a 12-year boy in Midtown over the weekend, state officials are talking about the sheer magnitude of the gang problem in Georgia.
“I’d say it’s as bad as people believe it is and probably a little worse,” said Ken Howard, the head of the GBI Gang Task Force. “How could the general public comprehend or understand the magnitude of the situation?”
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Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said a while back, they asked all 159 Georgia counties if they had a gang problem or gang presence.
“157 of Georgia’s 159 counties said yes, which tells me one thing. Two counties lied,” Carr said.
Carr started up his Gang Prosecution Unit back in July to help local jurisdictions go after the gangs that do not know city or county lines.
He said the unit is already showing results including a 59-page indictment of 17 alleged Barrow County gang members.
The indictment alleges the gang used things like bouncy houses and ice cream trucks to try and lure children into their gang. Both Carr and Howard detailed how adults are recruiting children as young as 11 and 12 into the gang life.
“They go into these government housing areas, go into public housing areas, go into these poorer neighborhoods, recruit these apartment complexes, recruit these poorer neighborhoods.,” Howard said.
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“It is legally reprehensible,” Carr said. “It is morally reprehensible, and if you’re going to be recruiting children as young as the fourth grade, we’re hearing even younger showing gang affiliations, it’s wrong, and we’ve got to go after it.”
Carr said the Governor’s Office and others are working now on new anti-gang recruitment legislation to hold these adults accountable for recruiting children. But he also said it can’t just be all prison and jail time.
He insisted state and local governments along with private sector businesses and community-based organizations must work together to provide legitimate alternatives to these at-risk children or they’ll choose the gang life.
Howard concedes Georgia will probably never solve its gang problem, but believes working with several entities and organizations, it can mitigate gangs’ impact.
“There’s a lot of things we can do in the criminal justice system,” said Howard. “There’s a lot of things we can do culturally. There’s a lot of things we can do as a community that we’re not doing that we could do better.”
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