ALBANY, Ga. -- There are variations in dress and crimes, but Albany remains home to many gangs, officials said at the first 2011 monthly meeting of the Gang Task Force on Thursday.
After pointing out the various color bandannas, called flags, that different gang members wear or carry, Albany Police Department Lt. Tony Moore said gang members have started wearing beads as signs of membership.
The beads Moore had on display at the meeting looked similar to the beads traditionally worn at Mardi Gras celebrations.
"Flags like the blue for Crips and red for Bloods are still carried," Moore said, "but we are seeing them wearing blue beads or red beads, too."
Gang members have added to their repertoire of crime. They may be heavily invested in the illegal drug trade, but other crimes are also money makers for gangs.
"It is no longer just drugs they are interested in," Moore said. "We are seeing an increase in property crimes, burglaries, car thefts. A gang member can increase his status in the gang with property crimes."
At one time there were 62 gangs in the Albany area, but now about 40 percent have either gone inactive or been dismantled, said Albany Gang Unit Cpl. Ryan Jenkins. That leaves about 24 gangs still active.
Two or three of the gangs have national affiliations, such as Bloods and Crips. Others are hybrids, which claim the colors, symbols and lifestyle but are not connected nationally. Jenkins said there are two gangs -- the Bricksquad and So Icy -- that were formed in Albany.
Moore added that older gang members have begun to realize that the stiff prosecution by Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney Greg Edwards can put them away for a long time.
"You get a 30-year-old gang member who gets arrested," Moore said,
"He starts thinking he could get another 30 to 40 years in prison. He starts asking us, 'What do you need? What can I give you?' "
Moore and others at the meeting said that the youths in the city need help to avoid the peer pressure to join gangs. It was highly recommended that men and boys attend the Second Annual Male Summit, 10 a.m. Saturday at the Gethsemane Worship Center, 529 10th Ave.