ALBANY – A former gang member’s appearance at a gang task force meeting this week juiced up what had been an ordinary, if packed, gathering as residents sought information concerning recent violence in the city.

Colby Carroll said a white businessman convinced him to attend the Thursday Criminal Network of Action Task Force meeting. He was a member and a leader in the Rolling 30 Crips.

“I feel like the city of Albany does not know the magnitude of the gang problem here,” he told the audience. “I have three preteens in my neighborhood who have AK-47s, with two drums (magazines).

“I have been running with a gang for 25 years. We are building a gang culture.”

The task force meeting began in a conference room at the Albany-Dougherty Government Center, but with some 80 people in attendance, many standing around the walls, the group moved to the larger room where Albany City Commission meetings are held.

Gang culture and the nation’s gun culture are tied in ways that may be surprising to most, Carroll told a reporter during an interview outside the meeting. When there is a large-scale mass shooting, many white Americans rush to purchase guns.

Gangs know this, Carroll said, and take advantage of it.

“We go out and steal all of those guns we can,” he said of gang members. “This city has no clue.”

People in areas where there is a significant amount of gang activity in the city often cannot get a police officer to come. In the past, the Albany Police Department had precincts located throughout the city, which is no longer the case.

“You know the cops in your neighborhood,” he said. “Now it’s people who drive by, and maybe they’ll stop.”

Ultimately, he said, being in a street gang takes a toll.

“Being a member of a gang is a forced indoctrination,” he said. “The longer you are exposed in that type of reality, the harder it is to get out of it. It comes down to being a mental issue at some point because you have to reprogram your thinking.”

In the meeting, Carroll said that the usual perception given – that gangs recruit children without fathers in their lives – is not exactly the reality. He said he recruited boys, along with their fathers and brothers and uncles.

Michael Roberts, who also addressed the audience, said he attended middle school with Carroll and could confirm his involvement with gang activity dating back to that time.

“They almost got me several times,” he said.

Roberts is involved with a youth basketball league, the 229ers, which, in addition to keeping boys busy with sports also helps keep them on track with school homework. When he visits player’s homes, he said, he doesn’t see adults around, and many times there is no food in the refrigerator.

“We go in neighborhoods and get the kids that normally would not be able to play,” he told The Herald. “We work with at-risk youth.”

Roberts said he could do more if he had funding. He provides snacks and drinks for the players, and there are many more boys who could be recruited if the resources were available.

To inquire about playing or to offer support, citizens may contact Roberts at (229) 809-6608.

During the meeting, Albany Police Chief Michael Persley said his officers will enforce the law, but more is needed to address the issue of street gangs in the city.

“It will take the involvement of everybody to make people not want to go down that road,” he said. “Making arrests won’t solve it all. What is going to help this is (the involvement of) whoever has resources, whoever has capabilities to reach the people before they go down this path.”

The Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office has pledged to put as many gang members as possible in jail. Officials in that office say they plan to do this by enforcing terms of probation, parole and bond agreements that prohibit association with known gang members. Those who violate those agreements will be arrested.

The Dougherty County School System is looking to reach some of the children who are in danger of falling into gang activity due to dropping out of school, retired educator Jessie Massey told the group. Turning Point Academy will start on Sept. 4, he said.

“These children have failed at least one grade, some of them two grades,” he said.

“That drives them to gangs, it really does.”

School officials are looking for adults to help, said Massey, who visits schools regularly to speak with students and just ask how they’re doing and show someone cares.

“(They’re) asking for male mentors,” Massey said. “We need people that are able to do things I’m doing. We have a lot of people in Albany who can be mentors. I want to make a difference. I want to make a change. We need more people involved.”

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