LAWRENCEVILLE - Education, not just law enforcement, is essential to combat the gang problems in Georgia, officials said at a summit in Atlanta Tuesday.
The summit focused on gang problems along the Buford Highway corridor and an Atlanta housing project, where law enforcement agencies estimate more than 3,000 members belong to approximately 50 different gangs.
"Today's gang prevention summit shows that law enforcement understands that we cannot solve the gang problem alone," U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said. "Arrests and convictions of gang members are important, but they often come too late to save communities and individual victims from the ravages of gang violence, and too late for the gang members ever to become fully productive citizens.
"We rely on our partners in education, social organizations, juvenile justice and elsewhere to help show young people that there are real and better alternatives to joining gangs, and to teach parents, teachers, community leaders, and others how to identify potential gang recruits and convince them that there is a better way."
Law enforcement officials from Gwinnett County and the cities of Norcross, Lawrenceville, Duluth and Suwanee are working on an anti-gang task force with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other nearby jurisdictions.
While the process of record keeping regarding criminal gang statistics is still in its early stages, during the 12-month period ending in 2004, about 25 percent of violent crimes investigated in the Buford Highway/Singleton Road area are gang related, including 20 homicides, 100 shootings, 300 assaults, 300 fights, 1 kidnaping, and 200 vehicle thefts.
"We need to continue to focus our time and effort on juveniles, especially gang members, if we have any hope of changing their behavior and protecting our citizens," said Gwinnett Juvenile Court Judge Phyllis Miller. "They are straining the courts and law enforcement.
Along with Miller, Gwinnett Schools Police Department Lt. Randy Holloway was a featured speaker.