The Floyd County Sheriff’s Office is forming a new unit focusing on combating gangs.
The primarily jail-based unit is a response to what Sheriff Tim Burkhalter perceives as a rise in gang activity in the community as well as the jail.
“I feel like we’ve got a gang problem,” Burkhalter said.
Cpl. Chris Parton, deputies Jamison Johnson and Josh Wright, as well as Jail Officer Blake Heptinstall, have been tapped as the initial unit members.
There is gang activity on the streets but the most concentrated place is within the jail.
“It’s the most logical place for gangs to assemble,” Burkhalter said.
They’ve reached out to Rome and Floyd County police in the spirit of cooperation — if for no other reason than in order to share information.
“As part of processing a new inmate at the jail we catalog a lot of information,” he said, and that includes whether or not they’re involved in a gang. For instance, jail staff will attempt to avoid putting members of a gang in a cell block with a concentration of members from a rival gang.
“For the most part we can protect them,” Burkhalter said. “We’ve got Bloods, Ghost Face Gangsters, Mexican Mafia, Aryan Brotherhood ...”
All current members of the new unit have been through gang investigator training and will attend additional training to insure they stay current with all the legal updates for successful prosecution of gang-related crimes.
The unit will also be able to share and receive collected information with other gang units statewide through the Georgia Gang Investigators Association.
“Just because we’ll be jail-based doesn’t mean we won’t go out and make arrests,” Burkhalter said.
In a recent incident, the new gang unit charged multiple individuals with participating in an attack on another inmate at in a maximum security block of the Floyd County Jail on June 27.
“A lot of this happens when our local youth are sentenced to prison,” Burkhalter said. “When they go to prison, gang affiliations are pushed on them for protection.”
When they get out of the prison system and they come home that gang affiliation continues, and as they “pay their dues” to the gang, he said, they end up back in jail.
If you have any information about gang activity in the area, contact the Gang Unit at 706-291-4111, extension 8824 and ask for one of the unit members. All information will be given anonymously.