Dougherty Chief Assistant District Attorney Matt Breedon gives the Dougherty Kiwanis Club an overview of the active gangs in Albany. According to Breedon, there are currently 1,000-1,500 verified gang members in the area.
ALBANY, Ga. -- With the impact of gang activity a concern for those living in the Albany area, it's not a bad idea to learn what signs to look for.
Matt Breedon, chief assistant district attorney for the Dougherty Judicial Circuit, is connected to the office's organized crime unit. He took the opportunity at a civic club meeting earlier this week to pass that information along.
The gangs in the Albany area generally fall under two nations -- the Folk Nation and the People Nation, Breedon said. The majority of them originated in other places, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, and spread to other parts of the country -- including Southwest Georgia.
"There is only one 'homegrown' gang in Albany," he told the Dougherty Kiwanis Club recently. "There are (approximately) 13 gangs active at any one time (in Albany)."
The "homegrown" gang is referred to as the Rattlers, and does not exist outside Albany, Breedon said. The gang is divided into two sets -- one that is in the western part of town and another that is in the northern section.
It's members often associate themselves with snake symbols, the colors yellow and black, and the No. 7, Breedon said.
"They are associated with the Bloods. They formed sometime around 1998," he added.
The Bloods, Breedon added, have a presence throughout all of Albany. The group associates itself with the colors red, black and white, as well as the No. 5. It has been in Albany since 1994.
Another major gang with ties to Albany is the Crips. First formed in Los Angeles in 1969, the group utilizes the six-point star as a symbol and has the colors of blue and white, as well as the sign C, Breedon said.
This group can be found in the Cherry Avenue, South Van Buren Street and Burke Avenue areas, as well as in East Albany -- specifically the Malone Drive area, the chief assistant prosecutor said.
There is also the Black Gangster Disciples, which originated in Chicago. The group associates itself with the colors black and white and uses the six-point star and pitchfork as its symbols, Breedon said.
"It is probably the most organized gang we have," he said. "They make their money through the drug trade. They stay out of smaller crimes unless someone comes into their territory."
Some of the other groups Breedon gave an overview on were gangs with less of a presence in the area, such as biker gangs and Latino gangs.
Latino gangs include Mexican Mafia, Surenos, MS-13 and Latin Kings -- which primarily consists of those who come in with migrant workers and join the gangs rather than seek employment, Breedon said.
While such gangs don't have as much of a dominant presence in Albany, Breedon did give a tip on how to identify those connected to MS-13.
"Once you stay in the gang, you have to get tattoos," he said. "They get tattoos on the face, so they are easy to spot."
Risk factors associated with gang participation include having had family members in gangs, or those who might be more prone to connect themselves to such groups because they feel they might not have anyone else, officials have said.
Poverty is not really a factor, Breedon said.
"It is not limited to one socioeconomic group," he said. "We have had to go to houses all over town to find gang members.
"It (gang activity) has been a growing problem, but we've started to get a drive on it."
The total number of verified gang members in Albany, which excludes those coming into the gangs now, is somewhere between 1,000-1,500 people, Breedon said.
"We are doing something about the gang problem," he said. "We need to get to young people before they get into this lifestyle. That is a better method than anything I can do at the DA's office."