‘Let’s paint the picture as it really is’: Chatham Co. leaders begin work to combat gang violence

Crime & Safety

CHATHAM, CO., Ga. (WSAV)- Local leaders got very candid Monday about Chatham County’s issue with gang violence.

House Bill 750 was signed into law last month to create the new Chatham County Legislative Gang Prevention and Intervention Commission.

Monday they held their first meeting.

“Let’s paint the picture as it really is,” said State representative Carl Gilliard.

Gilliard was joined by police chiefs from around the county as well as other community leaders.

There are 71,000 identified gangs in the state of Georgia and Gilliard says some of them are operating right here in Chatham County.

Gilliard say’s the problem has been affecting him since 1983.

“Two of my friends were murdered here in Savannah and since that plight of marches and candlelight vigils,” said Gilliard, “we found out that we reacted to a lot of things,” said Gilliard.

House bill 750 is meant to bring together law enforcement agencies, social service representatives, district attorneys, lawmakers, and more in order to attack gang violence at its root.

“We have to get involved at an early age,” said Gilliard.

Gilliard says preventing the cycle of violence has a lot to do with equity and access to resources .

Chatham County police chief Jeff Hadley says part of the work is identifying the kids who are most vulnerable.

“Intervening in that, with programs or just a person I mean the power of one you know,” said Hadley. “I’ve said it for 30 years of my career, one person can really make a difference.”

This coalition extends all the way to the justice department where intervention can be most critical.

“We are also reshaping prosecution in the society at large,” said Michael Edwards, chief assistant to Chatham County’s District Attorney, “not only in Chatham County, but across the country.”

Gilliard says there’s a long road ahead, but one worth traveling.

“These are our children,” said Gilliard, “so it is a great opportunity to collaborate with all of our resources.”

“These chiefs that are here, they know the problem, they know what’s out there,” he added.

Gilliard says they are required to submit yearly progress reports. He says work is already underway and they plan to present several new initiatives in the fall.

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