Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta reports that Georgia investigators believe there are more than 70,000 gang members across the entire state that are able to remain active by infiltrating the prison system and recruiting correctional officers who then assist in the respective gang's bidding. These gangs also grow by targeting children as young as nine years old via the internet.
Channel 2's Mark Winnie attended the second annual Georgia Anti-Gang Network meeting this past week and spoke with several investigators.
Via Channel 2:
"Across the state, how many investigations do you have going on involving the corruption of corrections officers by gangs?” Winne asked Georgia Department of Correction Director Clay Nix.
“Numerous,” Nix answered.
Nix said Georgia’s prison system is not only battling against inmates who are in gangs, but also corrections officers, who are recruited after hiring.
“Also, they reach out to other gang members who have no criminal record and encourage them to come to work for us,” Nix said.
“That’s happened?” Winne asked Nix.
“It has. Several times in the past,” Nix said.
Nix, continued, elaborating how these gangs are able to control contraband distribution in and out of the prison system via these embedded correctional officers. Nix showed Winne "pictures of a haul of suspected gang-related contraband that consisted of 61 homemade weapons, cell phones, suspected cocaine, suspected meth and marijuana." These illegal substances were taken just hours before the meeting began,
Winne also spoke to Cobb County District Attorney Mike Carlson who told him that “Criminal street gangs represent America’s greatest public safety threat."
Perhaps most alarming about these gangs are their creative use of the internet to target children.
“The use of social media, the recruitment of young local neighborhood gangs as young as 9 and 13 years old,” Carr said.
According to Winne, "The commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Community Supervision said there are currently more than 13,000 gang members under active supervision across the state. "
“We'll never be able to have parity in numbers with the 70,000-plus gang members in Georgia. But what we are able to do is finely tune the force packages we use to go after each one of these sets,” Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine told Channel 2 Action News.