SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — On Wednesday, Governor Brian Kemp signed bills to strengthen penalties for gang crimes. 

“On July 1st, we also will have a prosecutions unit, a historic first-of-its-kind state prosecutions unit that will be able to work with DAs and others to prosecute the most violent criminals in our communities.”

It’s Georgia’s latest effort to fight gang-related violence. The Street Gang Terrorism And Prevention Act adds a mandatory five-year sentence to anyone convicted of a gang-related crime and ten years if they recruit kids under 18. 

Recently, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr met with the state’s anti-gang network in Garden City. 

He hopes this new law can keep those at risk of gang-related crimes – safer.

“There are 1500 gangs around the state of Georgia,” Carr said. “And the thing that concerns me most is who is terrorized most often by a gang. It is lower income, racially diverse and immigrant populations. Everyone needs to know the calvary has come in and deserves to feel safe.”

Rep. Carl Gilliard is the chair of the Chatham County Gang Prevention and Intervention Commission. Gilliard says one of the group’s focuses is on keeping guns out of the hands of young people. 

“When we first started this commission, we talked about commitment,” explained Gilliard. “And the key thing right now is we have failed our kids because we have not been consistent. These afterschool programs are essential. What are we going to do for Saturday? For programs to engage those young people so that they don’t become a part of the gang element.

Gilliard also says gang violence doesn’t just hurt the victim’s family.

“One life is more than enough. We lose lives on both sides. We lose the person that dies and we lose the life of the person that committed the crime.”

Before it was signed into law, judges had the option to wave added prison time for gang-related convictions but this makes that no longer an option.