News 12 at 6 o'clock / Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013
WAYNESBORO, Ga. (WRDW) -- Families of alleged gang members in Waynesboro claim their loved ones are not gang members nor are there gangs in their city.
Investigators arrested nine young men for participation in gang activity, which they say has wreaked havoc upon their city. They made the arrests last week and expect more arrests by this weekend.
"These kids are not in a gang not at all," said Tangela Lakes, the mother of 17-year-old Tacorey Lakes.
Police say Tacorey is not only an admitted member of the Orchard Gang Boys but also one of its leaders.
Lakes says the Orchard Boys are not a gang. She says it's just a term her son uses to associate himself with area where he grew up, a neighborhood in Waynesboro called Pecan Orchard.
Other families of alleged members of the Orchard Gang Boys also came to News 12 to state the same thing: Their loved ones are not gang members and there are no gangs period in Waynesboro, Ga.
Elizabeth Owens: "Is he in a gang?"
Antony Walker: "No."
Elizabeth Owens: "Are you being delusional? Are you just not seeing he is really in a gang?"
Tasha Owens: "No."
Lt. Joseph Nelson says the Orchard Gang Boys and rival Jersey Boys have been wreaking havoc on the city.
"They are, in fact, involved in gang activity," the investigator said.
Lt. Nelson says last week was the final straw.
"We've received calls of gunshots of a bunch of young men running around the city causing all sorts of trouble," he said.
An investigation led to nine young men being arrested.
"None of these kids are out here robbing, stealing, killing doing the things real gang members do," Lakes said.
According to Georgia law: "Criminal street gang means any organization association or group of three or more persons associated in fact whether formal or informal, which engages in criminal gang activity." Criminal gang activity includes trespassing, gang painting, violence and possession of weapons.
Police also say all you have to do is to take a look around Waynesboro and you will see the signs. "OGB" (Orchard Gang Boys) is tagged on signs and a fence is destroyed after investigators say the gang pulled up in a person's yard.
Investigators say citizens also brought them evidence on social media sites of gang activity, like pictures of young men throwing signs.
"I think they are just throwing up fingers signs because they just don't want to stand like this. Something to make them look cool," Lakes said.
"As a mother, do you think you are looking through rose-colored glasses, that you are seeing the best in your son, that you aren't seeing things how they really are?" asked News 12's Liz Owens.
"No, because I don't uphold him in his room because you can't say what kids do when they aren't around. All you can say is how you know they are and I know my son is not in a gang," Lakes replied.
Lakes has two warrants out for her arrests. They say she violated a city ordinance "failure to supervise" for not controlling her son.
Waynesboro Police says they have positively identified four gangs in the area.
Investigators say that reports went from an average of 12 over a weekend to one since they made the nine arrests.