The Georgia Attorney General visits Savannah to talk about a nationwide anti-gang network

The Georgia Attorney General gathered law enforcement officials from across the Coast region for a meeting of his anti-gang network in Savannah on Tuesday.

Attorney General Chris Carr said the anti-gang network is looking to improve communications, information sharing and law enforcement while developing anti-recruitment programs throughout 2023.

Why are we doing this? Sixty to 90 percent of all violent crime is committed by gangs, and which communities are most often terrorized by gangs? “Lower-income, racially diverse and immigrant populations and it is the primary duty of government to protect people and property,” Carr said. “This means all Georgians.” Everyone deserves security.

Carr said the recently passed SB 44 sets mandatory minimum sentences for those who recruit children into gangs, with 10 to 20 years for the first offense.

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Rep. Bill Hitchens sits on the state’s public safety subcommittee and said he was present to hear how local jurisdictions are using their resources to address these issues.

Gang activity does not end at county or city limits. “It’s all over,” Hitchens said. “They interact with one another, and law enforcement must do the same if they are to be successful in rooting out gangs across our state.”

He added that from a law enforcement perspective, getting to the bottom of the problem is difficult because those directly affected by violent gang activity do not want to be labeled as “spy.”

It’s tough, you know,” Hitchens said. “Everyone says, ‘Well, why don’t people come out and talk about it?’ The locals, who usually live in economically deprived neighborhoods, fear reprisals.

Carr said efforts like SB 92, creating an oversight commission for district attorneys, could also help ensure more successful prosecutions of identified gang members.

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He said that while they would prefer to work together, if they felt the case was not being handled appropriately, they had the power to initiate a prosecution without the help of the prosecutor.

“We have jurisdictions in this state where some prosecutors don’t prosecute certain laws, and gang law is one of them,” Carr said. “As I said, all Georgians deserve to be safe and if a prosecutor decides not to prosecute one, we will not hesitate to comply with the gang law and do it.

According to the attorney general’s office, there are more than 70,000 identified gang members across the state, with nearly every county reporting some type of gang activity.

Carr added that the anti-gang network’s next big goal is to develop more programs for children in hopes of reducing the number of children on the streets.