News 12 at 11, November 14, 2007
HEPHZIBAH, Ga. --- Details on the undercover location used in Operation Augusta Ink, a tattoo parlor at 2745 Tobacco Road. That's near Windsor Spring Road in Hephzibah. News 12 got a close look at the Colur Tyme Tattoo Parlor, and found out what investigators did to bring in business, and bust the gangs.
When you walk inside Colur Tyme Tattoo Parlor, the first thing you'll notice is a splash of color on the walls. Investigators put these walls up as a blank canvas, and put a bowl of Sharpies out, and told customers to tag the wall.
"We noticed very quickly that we would have them put their gang affiliations, who they were, who they represented on the wall and that was a valuable source of intelligence for us," Lt. Scott Peebles said.
This helped investigators identify people as being part of a gang. The success of the operation surprised investigators.
"When we started this we didn't know. We kind of put it out to see what kind of response we were going to get but we didn't know if it was going to be a complete failure, and it took off so fast that we could not keep up with it," Lt. Peebles said.
But they did keep up with it. This tattoo parlor played a major role in Richmond County's largest undercover operation ever. Lt. Scott Peebles said if a customer came in to Colur Tyme whether a gang member or just there for a tattoo, they would bring people with them, and they would sit here, in the mall area.
"Often times they would use drugs and talk about the criminal activity they've been involved in, all of which would be recorded both visually and audibly for our records later," Lt. Peebles said.
Recorded like we were here. Through a hidden camera inside the tattoo parlor. Just one more way to ID the suspects. The tattoo proved to be the perfect cover. Lt. Peebles said its a popular thing for gang members to mark themselves for life, to show allegiance.
"That's how the idea for us came about was to have a tattoo parlor. We knew that gang members would come to us wanting tattoos and that we could get intel through that medium," Lt. Peebles said.
Investigators went to great lengths to make this tattoo parlor look genuine. The store is covered in drug paraphernalia.
"We put that out to give the shop, basically street credibility, hoping that when people would see things like that they would say there's obviously no way that this is anyway affiliated with law enforcement because there's no way that they would do something like that," Lt. Peebles said.