Simmons on Gangs

I thought this was worth repeating in light of the continued denial comments from Sheriff Randall.

June 30, 2008
Street Gangs in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Georgia

Early in my campaign, I stated my position that there is a gang problem in Fayette County. Not everyone shares this view. The information presented here has been carefully selected from published sources so that you – the reader – can determine for yourself what you consider the extent of the problem, and the response you would like to see from your law enforcement officials.
Street gang activity is a nationwide issue. A 2002 National Youth Gang Center survey estimated that there were 21,500 youth gangs with 731,500 members in the U.S. This survey found that all cities with populations of 250,000 or more and 87% of cities with populations from 100,000 to 249,999 reported youth gang problems.

Street gangs are expanding from their more traditional urban bases to the suburbs and beyond. The “Attorney General’s Report to Congress on the Growth of Violent Street Gangs in Suburban Areas” dated April 2008 says that the spread out from the cities started in the late 1980s, and intensified into the 1990s.

One difficulty in identifying gangs is the fact that there is not an agreed-upon definition of just what constitutes a “gang” or “gang activity.” Law enforcement and other officials must have a commonly accepted working definition of before they can identify and address the issues.

The National Alliance of Gang Investigators Associations (NAGIA), in partnership with the FBI, National Drug Intelligence Center, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, published the “2005 National Gang Threat Assessment.” The assessment reported that, as families relocate, “migration of gang members leads to the establishment of gangs in neighborhoods previously gang-free….” A disturbing finding was that new gang members are recruited in elementary, middle, and high schools, and “children are often forced to join one gang for protection from another.”

The NAGIA assessment states, “Many times the migratory pattern, as well as the genesis and growth of homegrown gangs, is indirectly aided by official denial.” It said that about 31% of law enforcement officials who took part in the survey responded that their communities “denied the problem, had no response, or expressed no interest in it. Several officials added that their communities did not respond to the gang problem until high-profile gang-related incidents and homicides escalated.” Indeed, this is a new phenomenon to many people. Sometimes it is not easy to recognize it, much less understand the implications for the future. Because of this, Robert Walker’s Gangs OR Us website says, “Too often the phrase, ‘We don’t have gangs in our community’ is uttered by the city fathers, the police, the chamber of commerce or the tourist bureau. This phrase is frequently followed by, ‘All we have are a bunch of wannabes.’”

Gangs are widespread throughout the state of Georgia. The National Drug Intelligence Center published the “Georgia Drug Threat Assessment” in April 2003. It said “Gangs in cities such as Albany, Athens, Columbus, Decatur, Gainesville, Hinesville, Macon, Statesboro, and Valdosta are heavily involved in cocaine distribution.” It stated, “Generally, gangs in Georgia are not affiliated with large, nationally recognized street gangs in other U.S. cities; however, some gangs in Georgia including Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples, Latin Kings, and Vice Lords do have national affiliations.”

A quick internet search of recent news articles gives us a good idea of the extent to which street gangs have spread to the suburbs and the countryside. A sample of articles published in 2006, 2007, and 2008 includes gang-related headlines from Albany, Athens, Augusta, Bainbridge, Blakely, Douglasville, Monroe, Savannah, Tifton, Thomasville, and Winder, as well as Cobb, Columbia Houston, and McDuffie Counties.

Close to home, in Henry County, gang activity has become an issue in the upcoming elections. On June 12, 2008 the Henry Daily Herald – Online said “Major issues, such as rapid growth, traffic congestion and gang activity are sharing up as prime concerns among area voters” (article titled “Three candidates eyeing state senate seat”).

On June 16, the same web site said “With growth in Henry County, there has been as increase in gang activity, an issue Republican candidate Pipkin, has placed high on his legislative priorities list” (article titled “Pipkin challenges Davis for State House seat”). Of course, street gang activity in Clayton, Fulton, and DeKalb counties has been quite extensively documented.
With this spread of street gangs throughout the area, how could it not become a concern in Fayette County? Whether crimes are committed by traditional or informal gangs that have formed within our county, or by “outside” gangs coming here to commit crimes, the problem is real. We have seen the recent news articles of local gang activity, or gang-related crimes. Since there is not common agreement about what constitutes a gang or gang activity, there is no agreement on how much gang activity is occurring in our community. Some of the recently reported crimes include the following headlines of articles appearing in The Citizen:
• January 9: “Shots fired as cops break up mob at teen’s birthday party”
• January 9: “9 gang members held in guns heist”
• January 15: “Officials: Gang activity no surprise”
• May 15: “Fayetteville arrests 5 on gang charges from gunfire incident”
The January 15 article stated that police had confiscated three “gang bibles.” They contained information such as the meaning of gang symbols, and who the gang leaders are.
There have been other crimes reported that may have been gang related. For example, on June 17 The Citizen reported a robbery and kidnapping that occurred earlier that day at a busy intersection in Fayetteville. There has been no link of this crime to gang activity reported. However, if one looks at The Citizen on-line and enlarges the photograph of the 22-year-old suspect, what appears to be a tattoo of a teardrop can be seen just below his right eye. If this is what it seems, it may be a symbol of significance to gang members.

In order for us to properly deal with emerging gang activities we, must first acknowledge that the problem exists, then we must do an assessment of the size and nature of the problem, then we must take action.

Here in Fayette County, local officials and citizens have taken some good steps to prevent or intervene in street gang activities. The School System has conducted a series of seminars at the schools. The city of Fayetteville passed a youth curfew. Peachtree City officials, and at least one citizen, have been vigorously working to counter a recent surge in graffiti. What we must do is continue to build on this foundation, and take the steps necessary to stop the incursion of gangs into our community, and to prevent them from gaining a foothold here.

I would encourage you to read the NAGIA report referenced above to gain a fuller understanding of the gang problem. It can be accessed at If you have questions or concerns about street gangs in our community, please contact me at my website,
Dave Simmons, CPP
2008 Republican Candidate for Fayette County Sheriff

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gelato's picture
Submitted by gelato on Wed, 07/09/2008 - 8:38pm.

Dave Simmons was the only one of the 4 candidates for sheriff at the NAACP forum which was willing to admit gang activity in Fayetteville. If we don't elect Dave Simmons, we're in for a very rude awakening. God help us!

Submitted by McGerkin88 on Fri, 07/11/2008 - 8:34am.

came out and said that his first experience with a gang in FC was as early as 1994! As far as Randalls crime stats...Babb stated that we just need to agree to disagree.

More affirmation that Dave Simmons has been on target and speaking the truth!

Good luck to both honorable men!

Submitted by skyspy on Wed, 07/09/2008 - 9:59am.

In ex-chif McKinnon's own book you were never recognized at any title or rank above Sgt.

Also crime was not only not reduced while you were in the gang unit it actually increased.

Don't take my word for it folks buy the book for yourselves for 1 cent on Or you could check Detroit crime stats, with the state of Michigan.

We need someone who can hit the ground running when they take office. In other words we need someone who has been active in law enforcement. Not someone who has been retired for 12+yrs.

Still would love to know why the hasty departure from the job x-raying handbags at the state capitol.

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