Feds: Illegal Immigration Fuels N. Georgia Gang Activity

Summit Seeks Solution to Problem

ATLANTA — Illegal immigration is contributing to a growth in gang activity in north Georgia, U.S. Attorney David Nahmias said Wednesday after a law enforcement summit addressing the problem.

Nahmias, federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Georgia, said the past few years have seen a “serious increase in our gang problem.” He said the addition of new Asian and Hispanic gangs — joining more traditional white and black gangs — has been a factor in crimes ranging from truancy and theft to drug dealing and murder.

“As we gain population, particularly when we see illegal immigration increase, we’re also seeing gang activity increase with that,” Nahmias said.

The summit at Georgia State University included roughly 120 federal, state and local law enforcement officials from 50 jurisdictions. In a closed-door session, they discussed strategies to prevent, investigate and prosecute gang crime.

Nahmias said the summit will lead to a coordinated north Georgia anti-gang strategy.

Traditionally considered a big-city problem, gangs have increasingly moved to smaller communities in north Georgia in recent years, Nahmias said.

He said gang activity that began in Atlanta has spread northward along interstates 75 and 85 — into Cobb, Floyd, Gwinnett, Hall and other progressively smaller counties.

“I believe that in any county in the state of Georgia, you’re going to find gang activity,” said Al Sharp, chief deputy in Polk County, northwest of Atlanta on the Alabama state line.

Sharp said that his county, with a population of roughly 40,000, is home to what law enforcement officials call “hybrid gangs” of whites and Hispanics involved in “everything from the importation of methamphetamine to prostitution, even murder.”

Nahmias said the growth of meth, a highly addictive drug that has exploded in rural areas throughout the U.S., also has contributed to gang growth in north Georgia.

“A lot of the gang activity gets tied in to drug dealing, and the drug of choice for a lot of people once you get out of the city limits is meth,” he said.

Sharp called the summit helpful.

“I think it gave everybody a broader view of what we’re looking at and how widespread this really is,” he said.

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