Gang investigators and prosecutors from Middle Georgia and beyond will gather Friday in Macon for a seminar and symposium focused on how to dismantle criminal street gangs.
Michael Carlson, a Cobb County prosecutor, is scheduled to teach techniques he used to help reduce DeKalb County homicides by 40 percent when he worked in the district attorneys office there.
He is the foremost prosecutor expert on gang prosecution in Georgia, said David Cooke, the Macon Judicial Circuit district attorney.
Wally Marchant, an instructor for the Georgia Gang Investigators Association, also is scheduled to speak.
The training, hosted by the district attorneys office, is the first step in a plan to revamp how the office handles gang crime. Soon prosecutors will shift their priorities in handling drug cases to elevate cases involving gang members who commit drug crimes to fund gang activities and expand gang influence, he said.
Cooke said prosecutors will be taking a more proactive approach and not just be reacting to violence.
A significant percentage of our violent crime is gang related, he said. These gangs are a major force of destabilization in our community and for our neighborhoods.
Prosecutors also will soon begin tweaking how crimes are charged to also prosecute gang leaders when their members are arrested and to add gang charges when a crime is committed for the benefit of a gang. Gang charges can carry tougher sentences, he said.
Members of the gang unit for the soon-to-be consolidated Bibb County Sheriffs Office and Macon Police Department will be among those attending the training.
Sheriffs Lt. Mark Franks, the leader of the new unit, said he hopes the training will help the squad better know what to look for and what to do while building cases for more effective prosecution.
This really is going to help us with the tools that are in the state statutes, Franks said.
Franks said the new unit will be made up of five Macon police officers and two deputies.
Macon police Maj. Charles Stone said police officers attended a class taught by Carlson and Marchant this year. Fridays training will be a refresher course on gang laws for the officers.
Officers have seen an increase in the number of cases sent to the district attorneys office and have been pleased with their prosecution, Stone said.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.