To anyone who has been part of the battle against Georgia’s gang crisis, Gov. Brian Kemp’s recent announcement of Cobb County District Attorney Vic Reynolds as the new director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was inspiring. District Attorney Reynolds has stood tall in raising awareness on the scale of gang crime, the need for increased federal and state action against gangs, and in establishing best practices for anti-gang investigations and prosecutions.
Recent research confirms that the GBI needs to take a lead role in anti-gang efforts across Georgia. Along with his chief gang prosecutor, Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorney Mike Carlson, District Attorney Reynolds in publications including InsiderAdvantage and Merion West, has stressed the necessity of objective measures to evaluate anti-gang programs.
The Georgia Gang Investigators’ Association recognizes that the most important, universal yardsticks in any jurisdiction are the number of anti-gang act: (1) warrants; (2) indictments; and (3) convictions during any given period.
To this end, GGIA has examined 2018 totals for both individuals charged in arrest warrants under the charging provision of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act (O.C.G.A. § 16-15-4), as well as how many warrants under that law were taken out in 2018 in over-all.
The numbers are alarmingly low.
Statewide, all Georgia law enforcement agencies together combined to arrest less than one thousand (1,000) suspects on Georgia Street Gang Act violations in 2018. Given that GGIA’s comprehensive study revealed that there are over 71,000 gang members and associates criminally active in Georgia, the rate of gang arrests to gang members (less than 1/71) is miniscule.
In 2018, the FBI estimated that there are over 50,000 gang members in the Metro Atlanta. However, Metro counties Fulton, DeKalb, and Gwinnett each had fewer Street Gang Act arrests than Troup County in Western Georgia. Troup County’s population is less than one-tenth of that of Fulton, DeKalb, or Gwinnett, and borders none of them. These differences are not isolated to Troup.
What Georgia county topped the list? Cobb County Georgia was ranked first in terms of both individuals arrested for Street Gang Act violation charges and the number of anti-gang warrants taken out total. This was not surprising to GGIA, given that Cobb County has been the base-of-operation for District Attorney Reynolds and Deputy Chief Carlson for years.
Governor Kemp’s admirable decision to appoint District Attorney Reynolds as head of Georgia’s largest law enforcement agency is proof of the Kemp administration’s commitment to dismantling criminal street gangs in Georgia. Mobilizing the GBI to set the standards for gang investigation and prosecution under District Attorney Reynolds’ leadership is a tremendous first step. Experienced gang investigators and prosecutors are certainly encouraged by what District Attorney Reynolds’ appointment means for improved public safety in Georgia for years to come.
James “Jimmy” Callaway serves as the President of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association and is the Chief of Police for the City of Morrow, Police Department in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Callaway has authored this column in his personal capacity. The views expressed above are the Author’s own and do not necessarily express those of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association or the City of Morrow.