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HALL: Cleaning up the metro streets

If the mean streets of the Atlanta area were a football field, they would be strewn from goalpost to goalpost with a collection of yellow penalty flags because we have just witnessed one of the best examples of gang-tackling by law enforcement that we will ever see.

But this type of gang-tackling by our state and federal law enforcement officers is exactly what was needed. The elimination and prosecution of the criminal gang MS-13 was clearly at the top of the game plan. And, after a hard-fought battle, this game was clearly won by the good guys. Like a football that has been deflated, many of the members of MS-13 should feel just as flattened with this crackdown.

For those of you who may not be familiar with MS-13, it is a criminal gang that originated in Central America and over the last 10 years or so has been conducting its illegal enterprise in the Atlanta area. Robberies, assaults, drug trafficking and murder have all occurred at the hands of MS-13. For the past two years, in a move of solidarity that we should all hope will become more common, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney's Office and the District Attorney's Offices of Gwinnett and DeKalb, put their heads together to take on this group of thugs.

The results of this collaboration came to fruition with the announcement of a series of indictments and deportations that should bring this group to their knees. This result is fitting, if only in the proverbial sense, due to the fact that MS-13 members had literally brought those folks who came across their path to their knees. Some never were able to get back up based on senseless murders that occurred for no apparent reason other than sending a message of terror to other gangs, and more importantly, innocent bystanders in the area.

In a recent press conference, Acting U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates gave a chilling depiction of the havoc that had been caused by this particular gang. She told of stories in which MS-13 members had entered a playground where many children were doing just that -- playing. When asked what gang the children belonged to, they replied innocently that they didn't belong to any gang.

This response was followed by one of the gang members shooting into the crowd and critically injuring one of the children. Acts like this are exactly the modus operandi that gangs have always used. They use fear and intimidation as their main tools to gain control of an area. When they are firmly in place, the area and all who live there are subject to a lawless and uncivil atmosphere in which they are forced to put up with. There is nothing pleasant to those who find themselves in such situations and many are literally held hostage in their own homes based on their fear of venturing into the path of these idiots.

Efforts to wipe out criminal gangs have been lauded from all corners of our society. Some of the ones who are cheering the loudest are members of our minority populations. We should never forget that they are as much a victim of gang activity as anyone. And not only are those law-abiding residents subjected to a life of crime that no one should have to put up with, some of them are subjected to unfair stereotypes based on the fact that many of our gangs are made up of minority participation.

These people want the gangs gone more than anyone. In many cases, their participation in sharing information with law enforcement is a vital and necessary link to identifying those who are involved in criminal gang activity.

The successful campaign against MS-13 is one that we should all stand up and cheer for. This will not be the last time that we get to see results such as this. Many gangs and gang members have been and continue to be identified and the scope is squarely pointed toward their useless existence.

The combination of intelligence information and resources is the recipe that has been needed for so long. To use the strategy of the gangs themselves, law enforcement is beating them at their own game. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors have become a gang of their own. We even have our own colors. The colors are blue, as in the thin blue line, and a bright and shiny gold that can be seen as it reflects from the scales of justice. But there is one major difference in our gang from all of the others. The difference is that when our gang wins, we all win.

Strike up the band, shake the pompoms, and let's all celebrate a victory in what could be the most important game of the season.

Stan Hall is director of Gwinnett County's victim's witness program. If you would like to have him speak at your next group event, send requests to shallbadgenotes@aol.com.