At a Friday, March 8, 2019 press conference, acting Cobb County District Attorney John Melvin announced a new, 74 count indictment charging 11 alleged Bloods criminal street gang members with gang-motivated offenses. DA Melvin’s latest indictment further illustrates the gang crisis facing Georgia and the United States. It also provides a “teachable moment” for some ill-informed guesswork on gangs that recently made its way into local media.
Last month, both the Marietta Daily Journal and Atlanta Journal Constitution ran comments from political figures that cast doubt on the realities of gang crime. Words like “manufactured” and “very little if any data to support” were tossed out to minimize Georgia’s Gang Crisis. Claims appeared that, somehow, “there needs to be more a little bit more balance” and that a “more sensitive approach is needed” in Cobb’s anti-gang efforts.
Widely available proof annihilates this sort of speculation.
Quoting a 2011 report, InsiderAdvantage’s Phil Kent has observed federal estimations that, “1.4 million active…gang members comprising more than 33,000 gangs,” operate in the United States and that, “Gangs are responsible for an average of 48 percent of violent crime in most jurisdictions and up to 90 percent in several others.”
Based on that report, commentator Jeremiah Jacques calculated, “Though gang members make up less than half a percent of the population, they commit 16 percent of the total homicides and a quarter of homicides in cities of 100,000 or more people.”
Here at home, the Georgia Gang Investigators Association’s 2018 statewide survey determined that there are over 71,000 gang members and associates currently operating in Georgia. Later that year, the FBI estimated that there are over 50,000 gang members in the Metro Atlanta.
So much for “manufacturing” a gang crisis.
As to “sensitivity,” DA Melvin made it clear that the victims in the current Bloods indictment are diverse and the crimes against them severe. On top of that, last year, Cobb successfully prosecuted four members and associates of Ghostface Gangsters, which the United States Department of Justice refers to as a “a violent, white supremacist street gang,” for the murder of a Hispanic man.
Would dismissing all charges and denying the victims justice in these and other cases—as opposed to aggressively prosecuting gangs—represent what some have called “sensitivity” or “balance?” Of course not, and any suggestion to the contrary would be absurd and dangerous.
State Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) put this into proper perspective in his response to these comments, “Street gangs in Cobb operate with aggression and they wreak havoc and crisis on our community. They are highly insensitive in ways that destroy the lives of young people…They are destructive; they harm people: children, adults, and the elderly — without conscience and with no regard for circumstances.”
As DA Melvin explained, his latest Bloods indictment demonstrates adherence to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s plan to “stop and dismantle” gangs in Georgia, comports with former Cobb District Attorney, and now Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds’ historic, aggressive anti-gang stance, and is a showcase for best practices in gang case charging. DA Melvin’s prosecution is also consistent with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr’s calls for stronger anti-gang enforcement, and United States of Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Bobby Christine’s forceful pursuit of gang prosecutions.
DA Melvin should be applauded for putting public safety and victims first in the battle against America and Georgia’s greatest public safety threat—gangs. Others, including gang members, should pay heed.
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.