Shortly after Georgia Gang Investigators Associations’ Ray Ham detailed plunging 2019 Metro Atlanta gang arrest rates, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that, by November 1, 2019— with roughly two-months’ worth of potential killings left to go— DeKalb County had already “set an annual record for homicides.” Per the AJC, DeKalb’s increase in slayings was “40 percent ahead of last year’s” amount.
The math is simple. When gang arrests nosedive, gang crime increases. It adds up to a sustained gang crisis. Proof is abundant– screaming out, in fact. The new homicide record in DeKalb is merely another example.
Failing to adhere to most effective means to eliminate gangs, though, is, unfortunately, old hat. As columnist Bill Black imparts, the most reliable weatherglass here is the extent that anti-gang laws are utilized. All too routinely, those laws sit dormant.
In 2015, Insider Advantage’s Cindy Morley inquired of five major law enforcement agencies, all in different Georgia counties, how many arrests under Georgia’s Street Gang Act (O.C.G.A. § 16-15-4) they made in the preceding year (September 1, 2014 through and including September 1, 2015).
The result? According to Morley, four of those law enforcement agencies “responded that they were not ‘the custodial keeper of these records.’” Records from the fifth were a pittance, showing “one warrant was issued for…a juvenile misdemeanor case.” That’s all.
The linkage has played out for years. Rock-bottom gang arrest rates causally connect with increased gang crime. How low are the numbers? Even when conservative gang member totals are used, experts designate that federal and Georgia annual gang arrest rates rank under 2 percent.
Is it any wonder, then, that national gang membership is well over one-million, steadily expanding, dominates all aspects of criminality, and rivals the number of troops in the U.S. military? Who could be surprised that Georgia has over 70,000 gang members in its midst, given these circumstances?
Want more proof? Even with these and other staggering factors, there is still no federal gang prosecution law.
Despite state and national level criticism, the media steadily refuses to make serious inquiries on the crisis of gang crime and failure of far too many leaders to forcefully commit to fighting it. If anything, officials are given a pass when it comes to gangs.
Metro Atlanta provides an example. DeKalb’s new Police Chief Mirtha V. Ramos and Sheriff Melody M. Maddox do not appear to have been asked about low gang arrests rates or any plans to increase them, particularly in light of the record-setting homicide rates. The same seems true for Atlanta Police Department Chief Erika Shields. (Remember, part of the city of Atlanta sits in DeKalb County.)
All of this comes with more basic arithmetic: Releasing gang members from confinement leads to more gang crime. According to Jimmy Callaway, president of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association, the mass prison releases pursuant to criminal justice reforms have generated a dramatic rise in gang crime victims.
This is no bombshell. Enactments like the First Step Act included no serious guarantees against wholesale discharge of criminally active gang members from where they belong—behind bars!
Supporting Callaway’s calculation, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall decried the dangers of criminal justice reforms in a recent op-ed: “Gang members and other violent offenders have been set free and lives have already been lost as a direct result of the [First Step Act].” Consistent with Marshall’s revelation are reports that a purported leader of the “Almighty Latin Kings” gang has been charged with murder for a killing he allegedly committed “almost immediately after” his First Step Act release.
Have leaders been confronted about the catastrophic combination of low gang arrest rates on the one hand and gang member prison release, courtesy of criminal justice reform, on the other? Have officials been asked if they will support aggressive anti-gang legislation and implement forceful anti-gang initiatives to counter these destructive effects? Has the media seriously challenged the kneejerk supporters of criminal justice reforms with the harsh realities of gang crime?
Citizens are entitled to better public safety from officials who operate in the public trust. This is also true of the media on which the public relies. As we near the season of primaries and legislative sessions— with elections just around the corner— emphatic and far-reaching actions against gangs are needed at all levels.
Gangs must be wiped out and real time enforcement of gang laws is necessary. Public safety hangs in the balance.
Where official commitment against gangs is lacking, answers should be demanded.
Along with gang arrest numbers.
Phil Kent is the CEO & Publisher of InsiderAdvantage and James magazine.