Lawrenceville mulls anti-gang ordinance

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett's county seat may follow Snellville's lead in targeting gang members where they live.

The Lawrenceville City Council has scheduled a special session to give the first reading to a "street gang terrorism and prevention ordinance," similar to the one enacted by Snellville last week.

A county commissioner and a Duluth city councilman said they were also studying a law for their jurisdictions.

"We don't have a big problem now that I'm aware of, but we're surrounded," Lawrenceville Mayor Rex Millsaps said. "When they are displaced (from Snellville), we don't want them in Lawrenceville."

While Snellville's ordinance was triggered by the arrest of four brothers, suspected gang members who claim to be part of a rap group and were arrested on charges of burglary, armed robbery and false imprisonment charges, Millsaps said he was unaware of a specific case in Lawrenceville.

"When we can identify them, we want to get rid of them," he said. "We just want to make sure we don't" have a problem.

The ordinance allows the city to use its municipal courts to declare a property a nuisance if known gang members live there. Oberholtzer said the city does not have the power to evict people but would be able to provide information about the activities to landlords. Placing the action in municipal courts could speed the process by four to six months, he said.

He said the tool was not necessary in the case of the brothers, whose mother and great-grandmother were also arrested, because they were evicted before the ordinance passed.

Oberholtzer said he's glad to see other jurisdictions taking up the idea.

"I think we sent a message," he said. "You want to keep crime out of your cities. You hope you're not going to have to use it."

Millsaps said the special session Wednesday allows the City Council to consider the ordinance at the regularly scheduled May session. Because of a requirement to read proposed ordinances at two sessions, the council would have had to wait until June for final consideration.

According to information given at a gang summit hosted by the U.S. Attorney's Office in December, law enforcement agencies estimate more than 3,000 members belong to about 50 different gangs in two focus areas - an Atlanta housing project and along the Buford Highway corridor in Gwinnett and DeKalb counties.