In the state capital of Georgia, law enforcement funding took center stage as state agencies presented budget requests aimed at combating street gangs.
Public safety remains a top priority for Governor Brian Kemp’s administration, with a strong focus on addressing gang violence during this legislative session.
Officials from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and the state Attorney General’s Office commented on the significant progress made in the fight against street gangs, attributing much of their success to state funding specifically earmarked for tackling gang-related crime.
State Attorney General Chris Carr spoke on the pervasive nature of gangs across Georgia.
“Gangs don’t care where the city or county line is, so we see them operating in multiple jurisdictions,” Carr said.
This sentiment was echoed by GBI Director Chris Hosey, who stressed the importance of collaborative efforts between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in combating gangs.
“With our task forces, whether it’s drugs, but especially with our gang task forces, the GBI can’t do it alone,” Hosey told lawmakers. “We work closely with our local, state, and federal partners, working as a team, because that is what it is going to take. But also working with our communities.”
In response to the growing concern over gang activity, Governor Kemp has proposed funding for the creation of a new GBI Gang Task Force in Columbus.
This initiative aims to bolster law enforcement efforts in areas heavily impacted by gang violence.
Carr, who established Georgia’s first statewide Gang Prosecution Unit in 2022, is seeking additional funding to expand the unit’s operations to other parts of the state, including Macon, Columbus and Savannah.
The unit has already seen significant success, leading to numerous indictments and convictions related to gang activity.
The recent crackdown on street gangs has resulted in a surge of cases, prompting requests for increased funding from various state agencies.
Carr’s office, along with the GBI and the Georgia Public Defender Council, presented budget requests not only include the creation of the new street gang task force but also allow for the hiring of additional staff specialized in handling gang-related cases, as well as boosting attorney salaries to attract and retain talent.
In addition, the Georgia Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) has become a crucial tool in prosecuting individuals involved in criminal enterprises like street gangs.
However, concerns have been raised about the potential for overreach and the need to address underlying systemic issues.
Despite these challenges, law enforcement efforts have shown promising results, with a reported 21% drop in homicides in Atlanta in 2023 attributed to increased focus on combating guns and gangs.
In response to the growing demand for legal representation in gang and RICO cases, the Georgia Public Defender Council has requested additional funding to ensure access to counsel for defendants who cannot afford an attorney.
The council also seeks to improve attorney salaries to enhance recruitment and retention efforts.
The proposed multi-million dollar budget allocation for street gang enforcement is a sign that Georgia will continue its tough-on-crime approach.
Efforts are also underway to identify programs aimed at preventing youth in at-risk communities from joining gangs.
“How do you stop a young person from joining a gang where, at best, you end up in jail, at worst, you end up dead?” Carr expressed. “Who are the communities most often targeted by gangs? Low income, racially diverse and immigrant populations.”