ALBANY, Ga. — The recently enforced Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act has slowed gang crime in Albany, Dougherty Judicial Circuit District Attorney Greg Edwards said Thursday.
Edwards spoke at the monthly Gang Task Force meeting in the downtown Government Center.
In August, 54 Crips gang leaders were charged with RICO statutes on top of their underlying crimes of aggravated assault with a gun, armed robbery, rape and other heinous crimes. Two others were reported as indicted after that date.
“There has been a great chill on gang activity since this arrest,” Edwards said. “Persons recognize that if I am going to be held responsible for something that other folks have done, that I have become in league with, I am going to avoid that.”
Edwards said that under RICO statutes, anyone who is a member of a gang is criminally responsible for everything the gang and all of its members do in furtherance of the gang.
Talking about gang structure, Edwards said the RICO statutes mean that gang members responsible for recruiting other gang members can face 25 added years on any sentences just as gang soldiers or leaders face.
Of the Crips leaders arrested and charged with racketeering, 15 were “LOCs,” the gang name for recruiters. Having a low-rung job like recruiter might not appeal to potential gang members who know it can cost them an additional 25 years in prison, Edwards said.
“(RICO) is the most powerful tool we have in our fight against the gangs,” Edwards said. “Many will back away from being identified as a gang member.”
Edwards said it was up to parents, faith-based organizations and the entire community to offer youths discipline, order and someone to talk to, things they typically seek from gangs.
“We have to win the hearts and minds of our young people,” Edwards said. “We have to show them that gang membership leads to jail or death.”