Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (left) and Charles Bailey. Chris Carr (left) and Charlie Bailey

Attorney General Chris Carr and his opponent in the upcoming November election, Charlie Bailey, expressed different ideas Wednesday about how to combat rising violence from organized crime.

Carr announced Wednesday the creation of the Georgia Anti-Gang Network to bring together local, state and federal partners to address the problem.

“The Office of the Attorney General remains committed to working with and further supporting our law enforcement officials—federal, state and local—on multi-jurisdictional issues, such as gang activity,” Carr said in a news release Wednesday. “At the end of the day, the law-abiding people of our state deserve freedom from fear, and to do so, we must re-dedicate ourselves to disrupting all gang networks that are infiltrating our communities with violent crime and will stop at nothing to turn a profit.”

In America, nearly half of all violent crimes are gang-related, Carr said. “Unfortunately, Georgia communities are not immune to this type of organized crime, and member recruitment is on the rise—with 71,000 validated gang affiliates and over 1,500 suspected gang networks,” the AG said.

In a survey that the Georgia Gang Investigators Association conducted recently, 157 counties reported a rise in gang activity, and 155 school districts reported suspected gang activity, according to the release. “Even more concerning, criminals are now turning social media into a recruitment platform to specifically target younger audiences,” Carr said.

The new platform grew from a July gathering Carr organized for the leadership from local, state and federal partner organizations to discuss current efforts. The round-table discussion included the three U.S. Attorneys in the state, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, the Georgia Gang Investigators Association, the Georgia Department of Corrections, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Georgia Department of Community Supervision.

“As a result of the first meeting, the group has decided to continue their work as the Georgia Anti-Gang Network,” Carr said. He added his office will continue “working with stakeholders to expand its capabilities to better support training efforts and gang prosecutions that span multiple jurisdictions.”

Bailey, a former gang prosecutor for Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard and the Democratic nominee for attorney general, said in an interview Wednesday that Carr’s approach is not enough.

Bailey said, if elected, he will form an organized crime and gang division within the AG’s office. The division would have assistant attorneys general working to target leaders of organized crime who are profiting from the opioid addiction crisis, which he noted has led to increased heroin use, as well as human trafficking and other violent crimes.

These assistant AGs would be “not holding meetings but actually bringing prosecutions against people who are moving poison through our neighborhoods, selling human beings and chattel and pulling young people out of our schools to be gang members.”

Carr, the incumbent, is the Republican nominee to retain the job. This is his first election for the job that Gov. Nathan Deal appointed him to fill after Sam Olens resigned in 2016. Carr was previously Deal’s commissioner of economic development and Sen. Johnny Isakson’s chief of staff.

Carr’s office declined to respond to Bailey’s comments about the gang initiative.