COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Federal, state, and local officials met this afternoon in Columbus to discuss the ongoing criminal street gang problem.
Nearly 50 people were in the room at Columbus State University.
The timing of this meeting could not have been better. It comes just three days after a Columbus gang member was convicted and sentenced in federal court.
The meeting was organized and led by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. And officials were talking about strategies for dealing with Georgia’s gang problem.
And it comes three days after a gang member – 23-year-old Bernard Shaw of the Columbus-based Zohannon gang – was convicted in federal court and sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land to five years in prison.
Shaw was arrested in July of last year by Columbus Police on gun charges. The Muscogee County Sheriff’s office was involved in the case.
Shaw was a convicted felon so the federal gun charges carried a harsher punishment.
“We have to come together to protect Georgians and we’ve got to be able to leverage federal, state and local law enforcement,” Carr told WRBL afterward. “So, to see the conviction that was that occurred last week, to see the activity of our gang unit working together with folks here in Columbus, in Muscogee County, that’s what the people of Georgia need because it’s the paramount duty of government to protect person and property in our state.”
U.S. Attorney Peter Leary of the Middle District of Georgia says there was a clear message being sent.
“You can certainly see the message that we’re trying to send,” Leary said. “That was a case that involved the Columbus Police Department, the sheriff’s office, the FBI, and our office. And, so, the idea was we’re trying to bring everybody together to address gangs here in Columbus.”
The criminal street gang problem in Columbus – and across the state — is in front and center.
The attorney general wanted to get those combating the problem in the same room to discuss strategies moving forward.
Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman says Monday’s meeting was a productive exercise.
“We’re going to send a strong message,” Countryman said. “If you look at the crowd in the room, this was a this is a crowd and just this area, this region. But if you look at all 159 counties and all of the cities and all of the citizens counties across Georgia, we’re all on the same page on this. We are not going to tolerate gang violence, gang activity because it’s tearing up our community.”