By Ed Brock
If gang members did mingle with the flood of New Orleans evacuees after Hurricane Katrina, they've been keeping a low profile.
Rumors that gang members were going to begin moving in on territories up here began in the weeks after the storm that immersed the Mardi Gras capital on Aug. 29. This week the Clayton County Police Department hosted a seminar on gang activities put on by the FBI and the Department of Justice.
Along with studies in how to detect gang activity and read gang graffiti, the officers in the class watched a film on the devastation caused by the hurricane. The film covered the looting that occurred after the storm but had no information on gangs migrating from New Orleans after the storm.
FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett declined to comment on the possibility of an influx of New Orleans gang members.
However, Clayton County Assistant Chief Jeff Turner said it may well be that gang members did come to the city along with regular citizens.
“With so many people displaced, it only stands to reason that the gang community that was also displaced may have wound up in Atlanta,” Turner said.
At the same time, Turner added that if those gang members are in the area they may be meeting up with associates who are already in the area, not fighting to establish new territory. So far there has not been an increase in gang violence “but we know they're here,” Turner said.
Atlanta police also heard the speculation about displaced gangsters, said police spokeswoman Sylvia Abernathy.
“Our intelligence team is working with officials in New Orleans and on the federal level to monitor gang activity,” Abernathy said. “We don't have any verified reports (of such activity.)”
There were two shootings in Atlanta that involved Hurricane Katrina evacuees, Abernathy said, but they were found not to be gang related.
However, Gerald Rose with the New Order Human Rights Organization said he has heard the rumors and is taking them seriously.
“I'm just asking for everybody to be cautious,” Rose said.
New Order is based in Cobb County but recently opened a Clayton County chapter that will meet every month at the Battlecreek Library. Department of Justice employee Jeff Benoit is president of the chapter.