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There’s Hope for Reducing Crime in Georgia

Key Points

  • Addressing gang violence is an important way to bring down Georgia’s crime rate
  • Improving public safety and reducing crime in Georgia are key to growing economic opportunity 

  • Governor Kemp should add re-entry programs to his crime-solving agenda
By Josh Crawford, Director of Criminal Justice Initiatives


When Governor Kemp delivered his state of the State address on Wednesday, January 25, he tackled head-on one of the worries that’s become top-of-mind for everyone in Georgia: public safety and gang violence. Governor Kemp led by saying “[w]e will also continue to take violent offenders out of our communities. For far too many Georgians, the safety of their families and homes is put at risk by the unchecked crimes of street gangs.” Kemp’s comments come on the heels of Atlanta experiencing its third straight year of increased homicide in 2023.

The protection of public safety is the most essential function of government and safe communities are preconditions for economic opportunity and prosperity. While crime control is predominately the responsibility of local government, state government has an important role to play, as well. 


Addressing gang violence is an important way to bring down Georgia’s crime rate

Governor Kemp is right to focus on gangs. Studies routinely find that gang members offend at rates much higher than non-gang affiliated at-risk youth and the general public. Typically, less than one percent of a city’s population belong to gangs or street groups (less formal and hierarchical gangs), but those individuals are responsible for more than 50 percent of a city’s homicides. 

It would also be wrong to think of gangs as just an Atlanta problem. In July 2021, Governor Kemp announced the largest gang bust in Georgia history, which occurred in Augusta-Richmond County. It included indictments of 77 members of the mostly-white Ghost Face Gangsters for a range of crimes, including attempted murder, drug trafficking, and assaults on police officers.

One of the specific proposals the Governor mentioned was increasing the penalties for recruiting a child into a gang. This is particularly relevant as the country deals with a nationwide increase in juvenile violence. But in testimony last year by Dallas Chief of Police Eddie Garcia, which he gave before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on behalf of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, Garcia explained that the juveniles involved in serious violence are often pressured by adults who sometimes literally put the gun in their hand.

So, to be successful, efforts to reduce juvenile crime must also focus on the adults who perpetuate the cycle and recruit these children into gangs. In Kentucky, for example, after a 2018 comprehensive anti-gang law passed, recruitment of a juvenile into a gang by an adult became a Class C felony (5-10 years in prison) for the first offense and a Class B felony (10-20 years in prison) for a second or subsequent offense. 

Together, we can get Georgia back on track.

Together, we can get Georgia back on track.

Improving public safety and reducing crime in Georgia are key to growing economic opportunity 

Reducing violent crime will not only save lives, but restoring public order will improve economic opportunity and mobility in our poorest communities. Increases in violent crime reduce economic mobility and hamper private sector job growth. One study found that changes in the rates of violent crime substantially impacted the economic mobility of children raised in low-income families. As crime went up during childhood and adolescence, their level of economic mobility went down. 

Another study found that increases in violent crime cause existing businesses to downsize and discourage new businesses from entering the marketplace. When businesses avoid or flee communities because of crime, residents in those areas lose opportunities for jobs and income, and they have fewer options to affordably access goods and services needed for basic well-being. So, reducing crime is crucial to long term prosperity for both individuals and communities. 


Governor Kemp should add re-entry programs to his crime-solving agenda 

Not included in the Governor’s speech but worth the legislature’s consideration are efforts to reduce recidivism through re-entry programming. Ninety-five percent of inmates will re-enter civil society at some point, and we desperately need them to come back better. As of 2019—the last year of available data—23.7 percent of inmates will be re-convicted of a felony within three years of release. That’s down from a high of 28.4 percent in 2016, but still far too high. Reducing recidivism means less crime and fewer victims, and while successful re-entry programs are rare, there are some that work very well. As Georgia looks to become a leader in public safety and crime reduction, one of our biggest opportunities lies in how we support re-entry. 

The rate of violence Georgians are currently experiencing is unacceptable, but the solutions are abundant and hopeful. Key to our success is reliance on what we know works and partnerships between state and local government, as well as the community. Together, we can get Georgia back on track.


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