In 2019 the Atlanta Journal Constitution has laudably raised concerns about the rampant release of repeat offenders in Fulton County. Unfortunately, criminal gangs are conspicuously missing from AJC’s reporting. This has allowed Fulton leaders to elude accountability when it comes to the engine driving the most serious crimes in Georgia and across the nation.
Representative are “In Fulton County, a revolving door for some repeat offenders” (March 22, 2019) and “Arrest-release-repeat and enough blame to go around” (February 13, 2019). Neither mentions gangs.
This gaping hole in the AJC’s reporting is alarming.
Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director, Vic Reynolds, has accurately reflected that “Communities do not have ‘gang problems.’ America has a gang crisis.” Acting Cobb County District Attorney John Melvin agrees and adds, “Terms like ‘occupation’ come to mind.”
To their points, the FBI opines that Metro Atlanta houses at least 50,000 gang members. Federal studies convey that gangs are responsible for 80% of crime generally and up to 90% of violent crime in some communities.
Mysteriously, these realities remain absent from AJC’s reporting on Fulton County criminal justice.
InsiderAdvantage’s Phil Kent has explained that arresting suspects under Georgia’s Street Gang Act provides system-wide advantages. Those warrants require bond to be taken up by a superior court judge. They immediately convey that the defendant was part of a highly dangerous criminal organization.
Indicting and sentencing under Georgia’s anti-gang laws also guarantee improvements. Mandatory conditions of sentence there include no further gang activity and no contact with other gang members.
The AJC should, accordingly, demand that Fulton officials explain the extent to which they utilize Georgia’s powerful anti-gang laws to protect Atlanta residents from gangs.
The guideposts are out there. Renowned gang prosecutor, Cobb County Chief Assistant District Attorney Mike Carlson, has recommended a series of questions for members of the media to inquire of public officials to evaluate their commitment to combatting gangs. The Georgia Gang Investigators Association has recommended assessing a simple, yet revealing, 3 point barometer:
- The number of anti-gang act warrants;
- The number of defendants indicted for anti-gang act offenses; and
- The number of defendants sentenced on anti-gang act charges.
Hopefully, future AJC reporting will explore those calculations for Fulton County. The statistics could form the basis of informed, penetrating inquiries to Fulton officials when it comes to the most critical issues related to repeat offender release.
Until that happens, AJC’s Fulton County readers will fail to receive the full story on public safety.
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.