Augusta seeks to create gang task force

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September 28, 2006

Is Augusta getting overrun with gangs?

Not just yet...but officers say if they don't do something right now, it will be, so they've begun taking serious steps to fight Augusta becoming a "gangland."

There is now proof that Augusta's got gangs.

The Richmond County Sheriff's Office recently acquired a DVD produced in Augusta by a group wanting to promote rap. The DVD features a tour of neighborhood gangs all over Augusta, from Barton Village's O-Dubs...

"You know it's real you come round here you plan to get killed," says an O-Dubs member on the DVD. the Southside...

"So it's Southside Death Squad." Cherry Tree Crossing, the Old Sunset Homes.

"Pulling the trigger's my addiction," says one gang member. "I rep Sunset, I'm 26 years old, with my money and my drugs and my pistol..."

"Wannabes are gonna be's," Lt. Scott Peebles told News 12. "These are gang members, no doubt about it."

Lt. Peebles says the DVD is valuable intelligence for officers.

And to fight back against gangs, local deputies will now have some federal help.

"We're in the process of creating the Safe Streets Task Force on Gangs and Violent Crimes," Agent Ed Reinhold of the FBI told News 12.

Agent Reinhold will oversee the task force, which will consist of one Richmond County deputy, one Columbia County deputy, a full time FBI agent, and other local officers, including Board of Education police.

"Most gangs begin recruiting in middle school," Agent Reinhold said.

The federal help is something Richmond County's sheriff has been talking to agents about for 6 months.

"We have 6 gangs that are somewhat organized, and we will target those gangs," Sheriff Strength told News 12. "We do have gangs ranging in size of 30-100 members, and those are the ones we're really concerned with."

News 12 asked Sheriff Strength if cops are being outgunned by the gangs.

"It's close," he said. "There are a lot of weapons and they're being stolen in gun shops."

The O-Dubs certainly showed off heavy artillery in the DVD.

The Department of Justice has to okay the task force. Nobody involved anticipates there being any problem with that. The process could take 60 to 90 days.

Once it does get approval, federal money can start helping in Augusta, paying for everything from vehicles to overtime for officers to equipment.

Officers have studied that DVD, and they feel like they know most of the men in it.

They've even identified one man--Eddie Freeman--as the victim in a shooting at the red Carpet Inn earlier this month. Freeman survived, but another man was killed.

News 12 will continue to follow the fight against gangs. We'll keep you posted on the task force and let you know as soon as they get approval and funding.