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Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr discussed issues his office is dealing with during appearances in Albany on Wednesday and Thursday. He talked one-on-one with The Albany Herald during his stopover.

ALBANY — Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr spoke before a gathering of the Dougherty Bar Association on Wednesday and at a meeting of three civic groups Thursday during a visit to southwest Georgia.

Before speaking at a joint meeting sponsored by the Albany Rotary Club on Thursday, Carr talked with The Albany Herald about the state and national opioid crisis, about Georgia’s gang problem, about storm recovery in southwest Georgia and about his decision to include Georgia in a multistate lawsuit to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional and therefore stricken from national law.

“There are two ways you can deal with the gang problem we face in Georgia,” a slimmed-down Carr said over a cup of coffee at Elements Coffee in Albany. “You can acknowledge there is a problem and deal with it, or you can pretend it’s not a problem and things will get worse.

“Fortunately, Gov. Kemp appointed Vic Reynolds of the GBI to head a statewide task force charged with tackling this issue. He couldn’t have selected a better man for the job. And, already, there’s buy-in from three U.S. Attorneys, the FBI, the GBI, Corrections, Justice, sheriffs, police chiefs, district attorneys. They’re all saying, ‘Let’s talk.’ That’s a big step.”

Nicholas Smith, the director of external affairs and policy with the attorney general’s office, who accompanied Carr on the trip to Albany, said 157 of 159 counties in Georgia have reported gang activity.

“And I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t something going on in the other two,” Carr said.

The state’s top law enforcer, who got his start in the political arena as a volunteer intern for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, called Congress’ refusal to grant emergency relief funds to southwest Georgia “maddening, unfathomable.”

“I’ve been here; southwest Georgia has been devastated,” Carr said. “These emergency funds are needed now. This is not a partisan issue; it’s a human issue. Agriculture is the No. 1 industry in our state, and Congress’ inactivity could have a generational impact.”

Talking about the human trafficking issue that he says is “much more widespread than people think,” Carr said both the federal and state governments are taking steps to halt the “despicable act” of luring children and teens into the sex trade using drugs and other means. The attorney general said almost 800 youngsters from 135 to 140 counties in the state were taken for the purpose of human trafficking last year.

“People can talk about First Amendment rights all they want — and I’m a big First Amendment guy — but I don’t think selling children for sex falls under the First Amendment of the Constitution in any way or form,” he said.

Carr, who worked in economic development before being appointed to the attorney general’s office in 2016 and winning a full elected term in office in 2018, said that while he enjoyed his previous job, he’s found a “whole new satisfaction level” as the state’s attorney general.

“There’s something about this job that’s very satisfying; every time we make headway on the addiction issue or get a predator off the streets, there’s a greater level of satisfaction,” Carr said.

Read an account of the entire interview with Carr in the Weekend edition of The Albany Herald.

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