ALBANY, GA (WALB) –October and November have been peak months for violent gang crimes in past years in Albany,
but those crimes are down this fall. Officials say the Gang Task Force and heightened Prosecution has made an impact on the gangs. They also credit community involvement with recent success taking back our streets. Albany law enforcement officials are reluctant to celebrate, but they acknowledge violent gang crimes in Albany have greatly decreased in recent months.
Still Gang task force officers are gearing up for next week, when all the schools are out for the entire Thanksgiving week, to make sure gang crime doesn't increase again.
One year and ten months after hitting Albany streets, city officials say the Gang Task Force funding has been money well spent.
City Commissioner Jon Howard said "We was going to fund over one million something dollars for the gang task force. We certainly have seen an eradication of a lot of gang activity in the community."
The fall is usually the peak season for gang violence, but this year gangs have been quiet.
Prosecutors point to two mass gang arrests that they believe made a real impact. Ten members of the Black Gangsta Disciples are facing murder or gang terrorism charges in the June 23rd, 2009 beating death of Reginald Richardson during a gang initiation.
And the East Side Mafia Family was splintered after Brick House Productions was shut down, following the shooting death of 20 year old LaSheldon Stafford in February.
District Attorney Greg Edwards said "We are going to prosecute gang members to the fullest, and number 2 that being associated with gang members is only going to lead you to one of two things, either jail or death."
Law enforcement credits community involvement with putting the heat on gangs. Chief John Proctor says people in Albany are no longer reluctant to report gang activity.
Albany Gang Task Force Lt. Tony Moore said "You can go out and commit the crime, but if you really don't want to do an extensive amount of time in prison, that's probably not the best thing to do."
Thursday school officials and gang task force leaders made plans for increased patrols next week, when school is out, wanting to make sure gang activity does not increase.
Edwards said "We expect this increased activity and that will be the time we will be the most vigilant."
Police Chief John Proctor says they have intelligence that many gang members left Albany, going to other cities because of the community fight against them.
Commissioner Howard said he has no doubt that the city commission will continue to fund the Gang Task Force next year, because he says it is working. The Gang Unit credits many community groups like Parents for Change, working to keep kids from joining gangs, for the improvement in violent crime.
The Gang Unit says violent crime may be down, but they are still making more arrests. In 2009 the Unit made 435 gang arrests. In 2010 they have already made 450 arrests, with another full month left in the year.
Click HERE to visit APD's Gang Task Force website.