SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Gang-related violence is an issue Gov. Brian Kemp and the attorney general say they have been tackling aggressively for the past year. State lawmakers recently passed a bill to strengthen punishments for gang members and now they are getting feedback from local communities.
“It’s like the governor said in the state of the state, you go after our children, we’re going after you,” said Chris Carr, Georgia Attorney General.
Tuesday, Carr met with local police and community leaders in Savannah to talk about gangs and how they recruit kids. That meeting came on the heels of the recent passage of a gang-crime bill. The Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act adds a mandatory 10 to 20 years for first offenders and 15 to 25 years for second-time offenders.
“Sixty to 90% of all violent crime is gang affiliated. And who are the communities that are most often terrorized by gangs? Lower-income, racially diverse and immigrant populations. It’s the paramount duty of government to protect person and property. That means all Georgians. Everybody deserves to be safe.”
Carr said Georgia has indicted sixty-three gang members since they launched their gang prosecution unit last July. The attorney general is touring the state to hear from local police and come up with more ideas to stop recruitment across county lines.
“You’re seeing more violence. Kids are younger that are getting involved in gangs and they’re getting more violent,” Carr said.
Carr said he was impressed with Savannah’s police athletic and activities league – which gets cops and kids together to play sports. Carr says it’s a good example of a preventative program.
Carr noted one important takeaway from the meeting. With more than 71,000 gang members spread across the Peach State, every corner of Georgia is dealing with the problem.
“The root of most of the violent crime in our state, you see it here, right here in Savannah is crime is gang-related. And it has been for a while,” said Lt. Colonel Bill Hitchins, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of Public Safety. “People who live in, usually in economic deprived neighborhoods. They’re scared of retaliation and they can’t say anything. So it makes it difficult for law enforcement to get information.”