Georgia leaders address gang activity in Columbus

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 7:18 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Several Peach State leaders made their way to Muscogee County Monday to address gang violence in the Fountain City. The group discussed new and ongoing efforts to protect and prevent children from being recruited into gangs.

Monday’s Anti-Gang Network meeting is the second of its kind to be hosted in Muscogee County in the past year. It follows the creation of the Attorney General’s Gang Prosecution Unit, which launched last July.

Attorney General Chris Carr explained 58 alleged gang members across the state have already been indicted since the creation of the initiative, including several in Columbus.

“We’ve been focusing on kids and the impact gangs have on children,” Carr said. “... where if you join a gang, at best you’ll end up in jail, and even worse dead. How do we combat that? How do we divert that? And unfortunately, we are seeing kids get younger and younger.”

Since July of 2022, a total of 58 alleged gang members have been indicted throughout the Peach State, eight of those in the Fountain City.

Local, state and federal law enforcement officials were all in attendance.

Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman explained being in one accord, for one purpose makes every leader’s job smoother. He mentioned the recent sentencing of a Zohannon gang member in Columbus.

“That is one of the gangs that we wrestle with a lot in Muscogee County,” Countryman said. “We don’t like to give them notoriety by mentioning their name. I’m proud to say, although it seem we have a lot of gang activity, we are making a lot of headway. There are some things we are working on, hopefully in the near future, that can give our citizens a little bit of comfort.”

Due to the sensitive nature of the topics, the public and media were not allowed in the meeting.

In America, the Attorney General of Georgia said nearly half of all violent crimes are gang related.

Muscogee County District Attorney Stacey Jackson also attended the gathering.

“Honestly the better cases, and the more in sync the cases are, the better we can prosecute those cases and then hopefully hold those people accountable for their crimes,” Jackson added.

“There’s no magic bullet, no one-size fits all, but different ideas for each community to craft to their needs is critically important,” Carr concluded.

This initiative kicked off with the support of Governor Brian Kemp and members of the General Assembly.

This is Georgia’s first statewide Gang Prosecution Unit.