Since coming into office three years ago, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has made fighting criminal gang activity a priority. In his State of the State address Thursday, Kemp sent a message that he is not backing down – announcing his plans to fund a new anti-gang unit in the Attorney General’s office, and to back legislation that gives the attorney general more authority to work with state and local officials to prosecute gang-related crimes.

“Together, we made wise investments in public safety over the last three years. By creating the anti-gang task force within the GBI, passing bipartisan human trafficking legislation to hold criminals accountable and support victims, and funding the crime suppression unit, we have shown our state’s commitment to reducing crime and ridding our streets of gangs,” Kemp said in his address to legislators. “The anti-gang task force in particular has been hard at work. I’m very proud of the brave men and women of the GBI and all they have accomplished under the leadership of Director Vic Reynolds.”

But, Kemp says, “too many jurisdictions across our state, soft-on-crime local governments and prosecutors have been unwilling to join our fight to rid their communities of these criminal networks.

“With many urban – and some rural – counties facing alarming levels of violent crime, we have the responsibility to act. To provide additional assistance for GBI’s efforts to dismantle criminal street gangs, my budget proposal will include funding for a new anti-gang unit in the Attorney General’s office which will allow Attorney General Carr to direct more resources in prosecuting gangs statewide. And my office will also be supporting enabling legislation that gives the Attorney General the authority to partner with the GBI and local law enforcement officials in investigating and prosecuting these dangerous criminals.”

Kemp and Carr both supported a similar anti-gang unit during their 2018 campaigns in the fight against gang violence.

This announcement brought applause in the House Chambers Thursday morning, but also among major stakeholders across the state.

“Building expertise and capacity at the state level deployable in support of local prosecution is absolutely the right answer to this crisis,” said Bobby Christine, District Attorney for the Columbia County Judicial Circuit and former United States Attorney.

Ron Carlson, Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Georgia School of Law, agrees.

“This new initiative holds great promise for combatting Georgia’s gang epidemic,” Carlson told InsiderAdvantage. “Gang crime crosses county boundaries, and the State Attorney General office is not limited by local and county boundaries as is often the case with local authorities.

“Adding to the urgency of the situation is rising gang activity in places outside the metro area,” Carlson added. “For example, a headline in the Athens Banner-Herald a few days ago said: ‘Gun Crime, Repeat Offenders Spur Police Crackdown on Gangs.’”

“The new approach puts another important arrow in the quiver of anti-gang forces in Georgia,” Carlson said.

State legislative leaders have proposed new anti-crime efforts as well. House Speaker David Ralston is backing a $1,000 bonus for law enforcement officers and more funding for mental health and public safety initiatives.


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