AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Georgia has a problem: 71,000 and more, according to state leaders. That’s how many gang members there are - on record - in the state. A group of lawmakers, educators and community partners said they are working to break the cycle.

The study committee was created when the Georgia House of Representatives adopted House resolution 585 back in March.

“I’m sure that there are so many more and in our communities, rural, regardless of zip code, we see the proliferation of gang activities, the proliferation of violence and young people are participating in that,” said Committee on Gang and Youth Violence Prevention Chairman Carl Gilliard (D - Garden City).

It’ll take a collaborative community effort. Law enforcement said they can’t do it alone. Locally, there are two dedicated gang prosecutors in the district attorney’s office. The district attorney said her office has made progress taking down gangs like Loyalty Over Everything (LOE) and the Bloods.

“The gangs are smart, as well. They do target juveniles specifically. I also think the more impressionable children are, that helps gangs for recruitment," said District Attorney Natalie Paine.

Deputy Superintendent for the Office of School Safety, Dr. Garry McGiboney gave the first presentation. In part, he said sometimes when kids exhibit aggressive behavior, it’s a manifestation of poverty or hunger. He said things like the cleanliness of your child’s school and bullying (climate of the school) have a direct impact on whether or not kids feel valued. He added that kids looking for care and affiliation often turn to gangs.

A panelist from Savannah brought her expertise to the table. She said one key is giving children something to do.

“School climate is important - but we have to realize there are climates that these kids are in and under daily that we have to effect change with them," said Savannah Youth City, Incorporated Director Beverly Trotter.

Trotter believes increased community involvement will lead to intervention and prevention of gang activity and violence.

The committee heard from various groups like the Boys and Girls Club of the CSRA and the Department of Family and Children’s Service (DFACS). Their deadline to report the findings from five scheduled meetings to the state is December 1.

You can watch the entire news conference here:

Copyright 2019 WFXG. All rights reserved.