Gang stats are encouraging

Published 9:03 pm Friday, January 19, 2018

A few years ago the LaGrange Police Department recognized a problem in LaGrange. There was too much gang activity in LaGrange for a city this size, and that activity was making crime numbers soar across the board.

That’s when the LaGrange Gang Squad was officially started. The LPD had dedicated investigators digging into gang activity before the squad, but the creation of the four-person team sent a message and provided the department a dedicated team to look into gang crimes.

The proof is in the numbers.

According to LPD statistics, the number of shootings, violent crimes, property crimes and VGCSA violations linked to gang activity all significantly dropped in 2017. From 2014-2016 there were an average of 16 gang-related shootings in LaGrange per year, according to LPD stats.

Last year, there were two.

There were an average of 17 violent crimes linked to gang activity in LaGrange over that same three year span. In 2017, there were eight. Property crimes went from 11.3 to 3.

Crimes related to Violation of The Georgia Controlled Substance Act went from 26.16 over those three years to 16.

Of course, the question is whether these numbers are sustainable for the long-term. Honestly, we don’t know, and frankly we’re not sure the LPD does either. It’s hard to get lower than two gang-related shootings a year in a growing city like LaGrange, or anywhere this close to a major metro area.

However, we do know this. The police department and district attorney’s office said they see a different reaction when wrongdoers hear that a gang charge is being added to their offenses, which signifies how tough the court system has been on sentencing known gang members.

It’s also clear that at this point, gang numbers are much lower in LaGrange than they were a few years ago.

LaGrange has a lot of industry and businesses interested in moving here, and we’re guessing lowered gang activity can only increase that interest.

That’s a great thing for our city.

We’re also sure the sentencing and serious stance the LPD has taken has been a huge deterrent to gang members considering a stop in LaGrange.

With all that said, there’s still gang activity in LaGrange. We’re not trying to act like there isn’t. It’s just much more under control than it was four or five years ago, and that’s a very significant statement. It’s also shown in other crime numbers.

Gang numbers often go hand in hand with other crime stats, and those numbers reflect a much safer city overall. There was only one homicide in LaGrange in 2017, which is down from previous years, when the average was three or four per year.  That one shooting wasn’t even related to gang activity.

It’s hard to know how much the lowered gang activity played a role in lowering homicide numbers in LaGrange, but it definitely didn’t hurt.

As our city grows, new problems will arise. These numbers prove again that the LaGrange Police Department is more than capable of taking on our city’s crime problems head on and finding a way to overcome them.

The proof is in the numbers.