Thursday, June 12, 2008

ICE rounds up three in Dalton (The Daily Citizen)

ICE rounds up three in Dalton

By Kim Sloan

Published: June 11, 2008 12:34 am

While most criminals do their crimes in secret, gang members “tend to flaunt” their criminal activity, says David Nahmias, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

“Gang members drive a car on a crowded street and fire an entire magazine of bullets,” Nahmias said. “We don’t do a good job of identifying crimes as gang related. There’s a lot that goes on that is not identified.”

Graffiti is one of the first signs of gang activity, Nahmias said.

“When you see the graffiti, that’s when you start dealing with the problem,” he said.

With school out, law enforcement officers see an increase in gang activity. This can range from graffiti to drive-by shootings.

“We are trying to get ahead of the problem,” Nahmias said. “(Gang activity) progresses from minor petty crimes to drive-by shootings to murders.”

Last week officers with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted a state-wide sweep that resulted in three arrests in Whitfield County for immigration violations and more than 120 arrests from the areas of metro Atlanta, Savannah and Albany. The three arrested in Dalton were members of the Fifth Avenue gang, said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for ICE.

The arrests were the result of a week-long investigation, Gonzalez said. Those arrested, who were not identified by ICE, were taken to an ICE detention center in south Georgia.

The sweeps are just one way the federal government targets gangs, Nahmias said. Another method is to focus on individual gang members who break the law.

“We work with ICE to identify those gang members,” Nahmias said.

Recruitment begins when kids are in junior high. And the perception that gangs are tied to immigration is acceptable, Nahmias said.

“These are young people without strong ties to the communities who don’t feel like they have viable options,” Nahmias said.

But things are improving, he said. The public may not see the work that officials such as those with the Conasauga Safe Streets Task Force do every day to identify gang members. And large investigations, which Nahmias would not disclose, are going on across the district, he said.

While law enforcement officials are working to curtail gang activity, members of the public can keep kids from getting involved in gangs.

“The one thing we have heard is to give kids in middle school and early high school some alternative to being on the street,” Nahmias said. “This is the most important time.”

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