Dozens of houses were visited by a team of law enforcement personnel and eight people arrested following a series of probation-parole compliance checks targeting local gang members and gang associates.
The operation was part of a Gang Associate Probation Compliance Check – the first of its kind to be conducted in the Coweta Circuit. The roundup occurred on March 30.
The idea to conduct the check was developed in gang intelligence meetings, and Department of Community Supervision Coordinating Chief Andy Zimmerman took the lead.
During the operation, three teams were assembled, consisting of personnel from the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, Newnan Police Department and the Department of Community Supervision.
Assistant District Attorney Herb Cranford Jr. was one several members from the district attorney’s office who assisted in the operation.
"Since we believe we’ve had success investigating and prosecuting criminal street gangs, we wanted to take the next step of giving diligent supervision to probationers identified as associating with street gangs,” said Cranford.
The group assembled a list of 30 gang associate probationers to check – primarily to ensure they were in compliance with residence and work requirements and drug testing, and to identify any indicators of continued gang activity such as tattoos or writings.
Those who were found to be in violation of their probation were arrested. In total, the group made contact with more than 20 probationers and arrested eight.
According to Cranford, law enforcement personnel also noted a significant amount of social media activity, which seemed to indicate there would be violators of the law. Probation decided to take a day off in light of the visible law enforcement presence throughout Coweta County.
“Multiple members of the community, including neighbors of probationers, asked us to come around more often and encouraged us to keep up the good work,” Cranford said.
Sgt. Ryan Foles with the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office said he considered the operation a success, even though it was the first operation done like this in the Coweta Circuit.
Foles said most probationers are not gang members, so they don’t have the same provisions as those who plead under the gang act, including being forbidden to hang out with other gang members.
“In the end, I think we could have targeted even more and we’ll continue to do so sporadically in the future,” Foles said. “It was great to have members from Newnan PD and the Department of Community Supervision working together on this.”
Cranford said the purpose of the operation was to send a message criminal street gangs that the county is giving close scrutiny to their associates and members who are on probation, with the purpose of deterring their criminal behavior.
“We also wanted to ensure those individual gang associate probationers are abiding by their conditions of probation so we can hold them accountable if they are violating,” he said.
Since 2014, the Coweta District Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of local law enforcement, has has convicted exactly 60 individuals of violating Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.
"Of those 60 individuals convicted, all but five were given prison sentencing by our superior court judges,” Cranford said.
The District Attorney’s office and Zimmerman intend to further coordinate with other local law enforcement departments in the five county circuit to conduct similar probation compliance check operations like this one.
Clay Neely: email@example.com, @clayneely