ATLANTA (WRBL)- The Georgia Bureau of Investigation — or the GBI hopes to get more state funds to tackle a growing problem in Georgia — gangs.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp wants to create 7 new GBI positions to eliminate gangs — at a budget of $2 million dollars.
“It’s one of the major things in this state — law enforcement agencies in the state said the number one issue facing them in this state is criminal street gangs. The GBI is involved in that and has a taskforce,” said Vic Reynolds, GBI Director.
The GBI has around 800 employees across the state of Georgia and 15 regional offices including this one here at the headquarters in Atlanta. The 3 main goals of the GBI are to provide support to local law enforcement, review crime scene evidence at their forensic labs and provide a repository of information in case an officer stops an individual.
“When you sit at home and watch TV shows like CSI, that’s what the Georgia GBI crime lab does,” Reynolds said.
The FBI says nearly half of all violent crimes are gang-related and here in Georgia, investigators say there are at least 1500 gangs with 71,000 gang members.
“We are learning and finding that the number of gangs in our schools and how we can deal with the gang problem at an early age because at a certain point it gets very late,” said Nelly Miles, GBI Public Affairs Director.
“Gangs provide individuals with something they are looking for. Hopefully most are blessed to get this at home – love, acceptance and a sense of belonging to something – a family, a group. If it’s missing they are going to find it somewhere,” said Reynolds. “If they don’t find it there – these gangs are filling in a void: we accept you, we care about you, but in reality they don’t”
The GBI has jurisdiction across county lines to catch gangs.
“We have the ability and authority to go across county lines. In my home county of Cobb County, if Cobb County is investigating a case they don’t have the authority to go to Gwinnett, Cherokee but the GBI does,” said Reynolds.
Just this month, the GBI launched a new criminal database to increase officer safety and make it easier for officers to identify gangs
State lawmakers passed one of the toughest gang bills five years back.
Besides gangs, the GBI says the most number of cases they’re involved in are drug cases, violent crime, murders and child exploitation in Georgia.