The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Vic Reynolds said Monday that the agency’s first-ever anti-gang task force is assisting more than 20 counties around the state with cases.
The agency has already helped a south Georgia district attorney charge seven people with gang-related charges in rural Emanuel County last month, Reynolds said. Gang offenses carry tougher prison sentences.
The Georgia Recorder caught up with Reynolds, who was appointed director by Gov. Brian Kemp in February, after he spoke to a new legislative panel that is focused on ways to stop young people from joining gangs.
Kemp, who campaigned on cracking down on drug cartels and gangs, announced the anti-gang initiative earlier this year. Lawmakers agreed to spend $500,000 on the effort.
Reynolds said the task force was mostly focused on areas outside of Atlanta that he said lack the resources and expertise to launch these often complex and time-consuming investigations.
“It’s not against the law in Georgia to be in a gang,” Reynolds said.
“You have to prove not only the underlying crime, which you do in every case, you then add another layer of proof on top of that proving these individuals not only were in a gang but this is a gang, they were in the gang and they committed a crime in furtherance of the gang,” he said.
Reynolds said he welcomed the emphasis on prevention, and he encouraged the panel to look at what a judge is doing in Cobb County to create a juvenile accountability court for young defendants who have been ensnared in criminal gang activity.
“It’s not GBI’s goal and it’s not law enforcement’s goal to lock everybody up. It just isn’t,” Reynolds said. “But we have to make sure that communities are safe. People have to be safe. So if folks are in gangs and are committing crimes, then they need to be pursued, investigated and arrested if the evidence is there.
“But these young folks who are salvageable and savable, we need to do our best to do that.”