During the September 30, 2018, installment of Atlanta’s FOX 5’s political roundtable program, the Georgia Gang, guest host Phil Kent opened with a disturbing segment on rising crime in Metro Atlanta. According to a featured story from Lori Geary, the offenses that are escalating include murders and aggravated assaults. Her report and the dialogue that followed revealed yet another distressing detail in the devastatingly destructive damage that criminal street gangs continue to inflict upon the Peach State.

Atlanta’s swelling murder and aggravated assault rates are indisputably gang-related.  Murders and aggravated assaults—both violent crimes—are brands of criminality highly associated with gangs. In fact, a federal study determined gangs are responsible for 48% percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90% percent in others across America.

Staggering estimates of Georgia’s gang membership reinforce the foregoing conclusion. In 2018, the Georgia Gang Investigators Association released survey results showing over 70,000 gang members and associates active in the Peach State. Last week, Atlanta’s 11Alive reported that the FBI places gang membership in Metro Atlanta alone at 50,000. Worse yet, the 11Alive story warned that Metro Atlanta gangs deliberately target children for recruitment.

The devastating effects of gangs on Georgia are not merely experienced by the thousands of victims of gang crime. As columns by these authors in both InsiderAdvantage and Merion West have explained, Georgia’s recent drop in CNBC’s business ratings and prior Number 6 ranking in Forbes’ most dangerous cities in the U.S. list are inescapably the outgrowth of gang activity. Given that the very next topic on the Georgia Gang’s September 30 episode concerned plans to invigorate the “Gulch” area of downtown Atlanta, aggressively combating gangs should be a top priority to promote positive economic growth, as well as improved public safety.

Visiting Georgia Gang panelist and high-profile commercial litigator Cary Ichter insightfully advanced that increased efforts to contend with Atlanta’s mounting murder and aggravated assault rates should embody best practices. Because gangs are at the heart of the escalation of these offenses, redoubled efforts should focus on, to paraphrase the words of our General Assembly, the “eradication” of gangs.

In a host of venues, these authors have delineated critical anti-gang imperatives for both Georgia and the United States. Georgia’s Attorney General should have clear statutory authority to prosecute gangs and full staffing to do so. Georgia district attorney’s offices should be supplied with state-funded gang prosecutor positions and corresponding training through the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia. Federally, Georgia’s United States Senators and Congressional Representatives should strive for passage of a federal gang prosecution law.

The Georgia Gang performed admirably in giving this alarming spike in murders and aggravated assaults primacy in its latest broadcast. Lori Geary’s reporting should be commended. We can only hope that future Georgia Gang broadcasts will identify the source of this hazardous intensification—gangs—and call for the most impactful means to rid the Peach State of their expanding menace.

If so, the Georgia Gang’s entire cast and crew would qualify as “This Week’s Winners.”

So would Georgia.

Vic Reynolds is the District Attorney for the Cobb Judicial Circuit in Metro-Atlanta, Georgia. Mike Carlson serves as the Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney for District Attorney Reynolds’ Gang Prosecution Unit. Both have been honored by the Georgia Gang Investigators Association for their efforts against criminal street gangs. 

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