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Spike in gun crime, repeat offenders trigger crackdown on street gangs in Athens
Athens Banner-Herald - 1/7/2022
Jan. 8—Athens-Clarke police announced Friday the 19th arrest in an initiative targeting street gangs.
Besides numerous suspects landing in jail, police have seized 12 firearms along with illegal drugs and stolen property.
"Much like the rest of the country, we are experiencing an increase in aggravated assaults, particularly aggravated assaults involving firearms," police Lt. Shaun Barnett said.
As investigators looked into those crimes, they found that many of the offenders were known gang members and repeat offenders "so that got this gang initiative turning," Barnett said.
In almost all of the arrests reported by police, the suspects were either out of jail on bond for other crimes or police said they had repeatedly violated terms of probation for previous convictions.
The man arrested Thursday was served with a burglary warrant, but he was already bonded out of jail on another burglary charge from December, according to police.
In May 2021, a 20-year-old Athens man was shot and killed near Winder in what investigators believe was a crime linked to gang activity in Athens. No suspects have been identified in that slaying.
The death of the Athens man was soon followed by a series of violent acts in Athens, where homes were targeted by gunfire on at least five occasions in less than two weeks. Police again were investigating if that violence was linked to the murder and gang activity.
Barnett said officers working with the department's gang unit have also encouraged residents to provide information on gang activity through a confidential tip line.
"A reasoning behind it, is at times there is this negative connotation of reporting things to the police, so the the tip line was created for citizens to have a way to anonymously report activity to us," Barnett said.
The information has to be vetted by an investigator, "but you never know what seemingly is a insignificant detail could turn out to be something pivotal," he said.
Police have declined to say which particular street gangs the suspects rounded up recently are associated with.
However, several gangs are known to operate in Athens, including the Bloods, Gangster Disciples, Piru, Crips, Red Tape Gang and the NBA or Never Broke Again gang.
Gang members were linked to the slaying in 2019 of two Athens men whose bullet-riddled bodies were found in a rental storage unit in Gwinnett County. The murder suspects, all from the metro Atlanta area, were members of the Gangster Disciples, police said at the time.
Police are still looking for other suspects, according to Barnett.
"The gang initiative is still ongoing and active. I anticipate there will be more arrests forthcoming," he said.
Anyone with information about gang activity may call the tip line at (706) 705-4775 or e-mail the unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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