Public safety officials: Gang violence on the rise in Columbus

(Source: WTVM File)
(Source: WTVM File)
(Source: WTVM File)
(Source: WTVM File)
(Source: WTVM File)
(Source: WTVM File)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - "I believe that we do have a gang issue in Columbus," says Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman.

But Countryman says the real question we should be addressing is 'How do we fix this problem?'

Countryman has been in public safety for nearly 28 years, but he says the recent crime and gang issue in Columbus is getting out of hand.

"We are facing a battle that we've never seen happen in Columbus," says Countryman. "Back then you had a bunch of agencies that were specific in task, but we would all come together."

Countryman goes on to mention the once operating Gang Task Force in the Columbus Police Department, which worked to suppress gang activity in the area.

But that task force no longer exists due to cuts in funding according to Countryman.

"Gang activity is still on the rise here in Columbus," says Countryman. "If you go into an area or neighborhood where there is a high crime then you will most likely find a gang."

Countryman says there are multiple gangs throughout Columbus, but not every gang carries a well-known title.

"It appears that we still have Crips and other gangs in Columbus," says Countryman.

Countryman explains gangs come in different variations, and officials recognize this aspect.

"You have people that will just name the group of people they belong to but if they are committing crimes in our community then they are a gang," says Countryman.

"I do think that it's a younger issue, I think it's several issues. I think the crimes you see committed are black on black crimes," says Countryman. "That's something that needs to be handled on the community level."

But without a gang prevention task force, how does public safety stop the gang issue?

"I believe one of the greatest things you can do is community policing, that's something you see less of in our community," explains Countryman.

"Once we can re-establish that relationship with the public, the public will start to tell us things again," says Countryman.

"We have a good system here with our combined agencies," says Countryman. "We have to come together to do this."

Copyright 2017 WTVM. All rights reserved. For more news, download the WTVM app here.