News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Wednesday, Oct. 16th, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Richmond County Sheriff's Office has a new weapon to fight gangs. It's a plan that's been on the sheriff's list for a while, but now the gang intelligence unit is officially up and running. Right now it's a small group faced with stopping a big problem.
It's all quiet on Thames Place Wednesday as neighbor Arthur Gaddist waters his plants, but just months ago it was the exact opposite. Surveillance video caught a gang affiliated shooting going on just a few doors down.
"We weren't expecting to have anything like that," said Gaddist.
Though they never expected it Gaddist says he know gangs are everywhere. Even down the street. "We never know who's in and out of the neighborhood since it rents a lot now," he said,
It's a problem Richmond County is working to stop by creating the gang intelligence unit.
"It's been increasing, very much so," said Sgt Aunarey Herbert. "That's our point in getting out and being seen and more visible and being more active and let the community know we are here."
Sgt. Herbert is one of three deputies chosen for the unit. He said, "I see a lot of youths that are coming up getting involved in more criminal activity at a younger age so it's my aim, my goal to try to change that."
For the past few weeks Sgt. Herbert has been attending all sorts of gang training and doing surveillance around the community.
"We keep statistics on certain crimes in certain areas. We have people that we are watching right now," explained Herbert.
They are working to identify specific gangs in the community, but say that can be a challenge.
"Six months from now they might have morphed into a different name and affiliated with somebody else. It's a fluid thing," said Captain Steven Strickland. He's in charge of the Special Operations division that will house the GIU.
It's a constant problem and one that Herbert and two others are now tasked with studying and eventually stopping.
"It affect's everybody," said Herbert. "Doesn't matter what kind of background you come from it does affect everybody in the community."
That's something Gaddist learned first hand. He says the neighborhood has been quiet since arrests were made and community watch strengthened.
The gang intelligence unit will be working to do that in neighborhoods all over the area. They'll also be meeting with business owners and be involved in the schools.
They plan to grow eventually but say right now it's a group effort. Other deputies will have to step in to help when needed.
The sheriff did ask for money for the unit in his budget this year so we will see when commission votes.