Gang Task Force discusses prevention, gang clean up

The Dougherty County Sheriff's Office also gave a presentation on gang prevention programs

The timing of this month's Gang Task Force meeting is almost ironic given that local law enforcement just conducted a gang member round-up.

Close to 55 gang members arrested on Friday and another six after an attempted shooting of a police officer on Tuesday. As Chief John Proctor said at Thursday's Gang Task Force meeting, this was just a down payment on the plans local law enforcement has for cleaning up the gangs.

"That's the first of many. We have many more irons in the fire working on that," says Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul.

Proctor says there are five known concentrated gangs they are focusing their plans and efforts on, including the Crips, Bloods and East Side Mafia.

"We've been able to substantiate that a lot of the criminal activity has been perpetrated by gang members here," says Proctor. "Whether it's been either committed by them or influenced by them, both to encouraging folks as an initiation kind of thing to go out and do some crime, but we have developed information that substantiates that, and we're going to respond and act accordingly."

Given the week's gang member round up, the Gang Task Force meeting comes at an odd time, as Sproul says, and even more so as they discussed gang prevention at the meeting.

"You can think you don't make a difference but every man and woman who works in the public safety sector makes a difference in some form or fashion," says Sproul. He says people in their 20s and 30s continue to approach him, saying they remember in the 1990s when their lives were turned around by some of the Sheriff's Office's programs and mentorships.

Some of the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office's prevention programs include the C.H.A.M.P.S. (Choosing Healthy Activities and Methods Promoting Safety) Summer Program that keeps kids off the streets and Scared Straight that introduces kids to the frightening realities gang life leads to.

"If cartoons can impact kids' lives at young ages we can do the same thing because we're able to provide a more realistic experience for them," says Lt. Terron Hayes with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.

Law enforcement and the Gang Task Force are continuing their fight against gangs, despite a few returning punches.

"There's a belief that if they (gangs) push back that we will stop doing our jobs but we're going to continue doing our jobs," says Proctor. "We have experienced some push back both to the degree that in our intel information there have been some calls that they were going to hurt police officers specifically some of our gang task force members, but that's not going to deter us."