A recent Cobb County prosecution provides an important “teachable moment” in the battle against human trafficking in Georgia. Simply put, arresting, indicting, and convicting under Georgia’s Street Gang Act is necessary to win that fight. This is because stopping the driving forces behind the evil trade in persons— criminal street gangs— is crucial.
On June 3, 2019, the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office announced the guilty plea of a gang member to “three counts of Violation of Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act based upon sex trafficking and related offenses.” The sentence was reportedly an impressive 30 years with 13 years to serve in confinement. According to the Cobb DAO press release, the defendant “exploited two minor females, including a 16-year-old runaway… and trafficked them for sexual servitude.”
For those versed in gang criminality, this tragic set of facts comes as no surprise. Academic research has demonstrated extensive ties between gangs and human trafficking, including gang prostitution of minors, “Street gangs are becoming increasingly involved in the business of prostitution and often target vulnerable girls as young as twelve years old.” A separate study revealed, “Gang members made up an estimated 85 percent of pimps/sex-trafficking facilitators” in the area examined.
Those with real world know-how in opposing criminal street gangs correctly maintain that there is no better method to end gang crime, halt gang victimization, and cease gang recruiting than aggressive enforcement of anti-gang laws.
To their credit and in a host of venues, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds and Chief Counsel Mike Carlson have rightly identified the connections between gangs and human trafficking as well as stressed the use of Georgia’s Street Gang Act as a primary means to defeat our state gang crisis. It is no wonder, then, that this gang/sex-trafficking prosecution arose during
Reynolds’ and Carlson’s tenures as Cobb District Attorney and chief gang prosecutor respectively.
Praise as well to Acting Cobb District Attorney John Melvin for keeping this important anti-gang torch burning after Reynolds’ and Carlson’s departure from Cobb and to GBI. Kudos are also due to Cobb case prosecutors Chuck Boring and Courtney Veal, and famed gang investigator Charly Lyda, for seeing this case through to the sort of resolution that will cause gangs to take notice and decide to take their depraved business elsewhere.
Gang domination of human trafficking is a fact. To be effective, strategies to combat human trafficking must heavily implement anti-gang imperatives. Cobb’s use of Georgia’s Street Gang Act in a gang-sexual exploitation case serves as a powerful example of how this can be impactfully accomplished.
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.