Fair brawl brings gang issue back to light - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Fair brawl brings gang issue back to light

November 9, 2004

Albany -- A bloody brawl at the fair last week is the most recent example of gang violence in Albany. Police haven't arrested anyone in that fight and they refuse to say for sure that it was gang related.

Police also complain that state law makes their fight against gangs difficult.

Just before the fair fight last week, the men involved donned colored shirts and head rags, which are gang symbols.

Assistant District Attorney Leah McEwen said "Red would be indicative of the bloods, blue for the Crips, black and white for the Black Gangster Disciples or Folks, then yellow for the C.M.E. Rattlers."

Their graffiti adorns buildings around Albany, marking turf. The District Attorney and law enforcement keep daily reports on gang activity in Dougherty County. "We hear of surges every now and again, but I think that is just recruitment," said McEwen.

But Police say Georgia's gang participation law makes it hard to convict. "The Supreme Court felt that the way the law was drawn in the past infringed upon people's right to free speech," said McEwen.

A gang member has to be convicted of a separate crime before he can be convicted of gang participation. "We caught them with a creed book of a certain gang in their pocket, that wouldn't be enough if we didn't have them on something in the past."

Juvenile laws make under age gang members even tougher to convict. So law enforcement works hard to keep young people out of gangs before they join, with school programs. "Gangs have sort of a cult mentality, and once they capture that child, it's really hard to get them out of it. So early intervention is really the key."

Police say there are signs you can look for if you are worried your child may be involved in a gang.

  • New friends
  • Grades drop
  • Tattoos-- Law enforcement say that is one of the most important signs that gangs require.
  • New tennis shoes or clothes that the parent did not buy.
  • Also watch for wearing only one color.

posted at 3:10PM by dave.miller@walb.com

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