ATLANTA, GA (WTOC) -A member of the Georgia House of Representatives from Chatham County is forcing the state to re-evaluate how we address and prevent gang violence across the state.
Representative Carl Gilliard sponsored the recently passed resolution to create a House Study Committee on Gang and Youth Violence Prevention.
Both lawmakers and law enforcement hope this committee can figure out what's working and what's not across the state to reduce gang and youth violence.
They say just having this conversation on a state level is a big step forward.
The Georgia Gang Investigators Association estimates there are 71,000 gang members in our state. In Chatham County, there are almost 1,400.
“We’ve got to start early," says Representative Gilliard. "Gangs are in our schools. They’re in our communities, and guess who they are? They’re our children.”
Representative Gilliard says finding the best ways to prevent gang and youth violence is personal.
“All of my young adult life, after losing friends to violence and seeing the number of young people being lost on both sides to violence," Rep. Gilliard says. "Whether it’s the person that’s the perpetrator or the person that has been the victim - we’ve got to do something.”
So he sponsored a resolution to create a committee to figure out if the programs the state funds now are working or if that money could be better spent on some new options.
“It’s the best place to start,” said James Calloway, the President of the Georgia Gang Investigators Association. Calloway’s group studied and found gang members commit most violent and property crimes in our state. He’s excited to work hand-in-hand with the committee to find ways to stop the problem before it starts.
“Not only are we going to be aggressive on enforcement and prosecution, but we’re looking for ways to be also equally aggressive on prevention and getting these kids out of that lifestyle,” Calloway said. ""When you have issues like I know Savannah had in City Market a couple years back, when that’s so vocal and is so out there and so predominantly obvious that it was gangs, then we see city officials and county officials saying, ‘Yes, these are issues.’ Now, we’re at the state level. What are we going to do collectively as a state to address these issues? And I’m very grateful we’ve come to that point."
Representative Gilliard says the most powerful thing about a study committee is the requirement for funding or act in the next legislative session based on its recommendations.
This group’s findings will turned in by December 1st.