LaGRANGE, Ga. (WRBL) – With the help of the city and community along with the District Attorney’s office, the LaGrange Police Department has been able to lower the number of gang related crimes since 2013.
The LaGrange Police Department started their gang investigation unit in 2013. At the time, authorities were making about 80-90 cases per year. Since then, the numbers have significantly dropped. In 2021, authorities only have 6 cases.
“We have partnerships throughout the community, with community leaders. Our city council is very supportive about what we do. If we need something, once we’ve given them the facts, they support us and give us whatever we ask for,” said Christopher Pritchett, Sergeant of the Special Investigations Unit for the LaGrange Police Department.
There are approximately 15-20 gangs in LaGrange. Some of the gangs in the city include, Bloods, Crips, Gangster Disciples and Ghostface Gangsters. There are subsets of the national gangs like Bloods and Crips throughout the city, as well as neighborhood gangs.
“That trend has started to go down because of the successful prosecutions that we’ve had in putting gang members in prison. They’re still there, we’re still prosecuting them. We’re still finding them but its not as prevalent as it was and I think its got a lot to do with the way that we have addressed it, proactively and aggressively through our office and the District Attorney’s office,” said Pritchett.
The police department believes the majority of the gangs began in other parts of the country and gradually moved to LaGrange. According to Pritchett, the gangs that have started in LaGrange are short lived.
Pritchett said has also seen recruitment start as early as elementary school for the gangs within the city. Authorities believe that gang members are often assimilated with criminal activity although that is not always the case.
“To tell folks, ‘hey, you need to be on the look out for a guy that has on this kind of tattoo or he’s got on a certain color shirt with a some kind of insignia on it,’ I think it just fills people with paranoia that they don’t need to be worried about. Because again, they may be a gang member but that doesn’t mean that they’ve committed any violent crimes or any property crimes or anything like that,” said Pritchett.
The police department works closely with the District Attorney’s office to rehabilitate gang members who are looking for assistance. They help relocate and find new sources of income for gang members who would like to leave their gang.
“When somebody, we think, hasn’t done something bad enough to require going to prison and maybe we can use the prosecution to incentivize them to get out of the gang or help them to get out of the gang, yeah, we do try to do that,” said Herb Cranford, District Attorney of the Coweta Judicial Circuit.
Cranford also said that Troup County, specifically LaGrange, has seen a significant drop in violent crimes committed by gang members over the last few years. He credits that to the amount of resources the police department has put into gang research.
“The complaints that we get from Crime-stoppers or citizen complaints where the citizen actually calls in and makes a complaint or comes here and makes a complaint is crucial to the investigation process. The citizens are basically our eyes into the community because we can’t be everywhere at all times. So we depend, many times, that information they provide and they information they provide can potentially solve a case for us,” said Clint Stephens, Drug Investigator with the Special Investigations Unit for the LaGrange Police Department.
Stephens said in his five years working for the special investigations unit about 60-75% of the drug crimes have been gang related.