City to raise taxes for gang squad - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

City to raise taxes for gang squad

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

October 7, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Albany city commissioners plan to pump more than a million dollars into a new gang task force. There's no money left in the general fund for the gang unit, so right now the plan is to use credits from the Municipal Electrical Authority of Georgia, and then increase property taxes.

Through the end of August, violent crime in Albany was up more than 100% percent from 2007. A crime trend Albany city commissioners attribute to a growing gang problem.

That's why the commission is implementing a new gang task force, to operate out of the Albany Police Department. The unit will have 10 officers, and two supervisors. The equipment and personnel costs for the first year alone are expected to top $1.1 Million. 

"I think we have no choice but to do it and I think our constituents are expecting us to do that," said Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard.

Beginning next year, Water, Gas and Light is expecting to receive millions in credits from the municipal electric authority of Georgia, known as MEAG. Although the commission hasn't made any final decisions about what to do with that money, Tuesday they voted tentatively to use some to get the gang task force up and running.

Then they plan to increase taxes to pay for the ongoing operation.  "We have no choice but to get rid of this gang problem." said Ward 6 Commissioner Tommie Postell. "Even if it means a tax increase. I have had people say to me, we have to do something about these gangs. We cannot tolerate it and one way to do it is to fund the task force that will help us to eliminate it."

Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard says the threat is striking too close to home for many people within the city. Just last week, a man was carjacked and shot at in her ward. A 17-year-old was arrested and the victim believes his attackers are gang members. 

"That is a small price to pay," said Postell. "We have no choice, in my opinion, but to take care of the gang problem."

The gang task force will be fully operational January 1st. The Albany Police Department is already working to recruit experienced officers to work in the unit.

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