It has become more evident recently that gangs are becoming a problem in LaGrange.
More than 80 percent of all street crime in LaGrange is committed by gangs, according to LaGrange Police Investigator Ray Ham. That number reaches over 90 percent in some larger cities. This year alone, there has been 19 gang-related shootings in LaGrange where 13 people were actually shot.
With the great work of our law enforcement agencies, six gang members, this week, who were involved in two shootings since 2012 were taken off the streets. But it doesn’t end there.
The economy, believe it or not could play a huge part in gang and violence in the community.
In reality, gangs are prevalent in areas with large poverty rates. The poverty rate in LaGrange is about 22 percent, 15.2 percent greater than the Georgia average and 73.8 percent greater than the national average.
According to surveys conducted internationally by the World Bank for the World Development Report 2011, the most common reason people suggest as a motive for joining gangs is unemployment.
The economy has been improving since the economic crash of 2008, when we saw job losses averaging 750,000 a month. However, while the recovery has meant millions for people already at the top of the economic ladder, it has yet to penetrate areas where people need it the most.
These young jobless adults are using gangs as an outlet and alternative to having no other means of occupying their time and making money, thus turning to gang-related drug schemes and deals.
With Washington requiring so much effort just to keep their doors open, the trajectory of gang violence will have to be changed by local government. Governors and state legislatures will have to get creative with limited resources. The group Mayors Against Illegal Guns has taken up the cause of keeping people from buying guns from the Internet to avoid background checks. Governor Chris Christie and basketball star Shaquille O’Neal are teaming up for an after school program, they’re calling “Just Play,” aimed at giving urban kids something to do until their parents get home. Christie claims that the times between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. (after school and before parents come home) is when kids are most susceptible to gang activity.
Still, the overall trend will only be helped by an improved job market. In the meantime, cities and towns with little history of gang violence may find this problem arriving on their doorsteps.