Full Access to Ray Ham, The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Georgia Gang Investigators Association

Episode 13

Full Access to Ray Ham
Episode Summary

On this episode of Full Access, listen in as hosts Debbie Garner and Wilton Cleveland speak with Ray Ham, Manager of the Special Investigations Unit of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice. Ham also brings his experience with the Georgia Gang Investigators Association to the discussion. Much of this episode is focused on gangs and violent crime. 

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Show Notes

[2:00] Debbie Garner asks Ray Ham about his career path and what led to his assignment at the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). 

  • Ham spent 17 years as a church administrator and youth pastor in GA, specializing in working with middle school age kids 
  • While working for the Church, Ham became a chaplain for local law enforcement and set up his transition from the Church into law enforcement 
  • Ham spent his first 10 years in law enforcement in a Crime Suppression Unit before moving to the Department of Juvenile Justice 

[5:36] Wilton Cleveland asks Ham to elaborate on his experience and provide some insight into youth who join gangs for podcast listeners. 

  • Ham kicks off the discussion by explaining that the DJJ currently provides services for 11,000 juveniles; 1,100 of those juveniles have a gang affiliation 
  • Ham explains that fear and past traumatic experiences can be big drivers in youth gang affiliation, but family involvement and influence are often more common than anything else 
  • Ham talks about the DJJ’s new fresh-start initiatives they’re working on to help rehabilitated youth find a place to relocate, work, and set them up for success, and not return to the environment(s) that drove them to gang affiliation in the first place 

[12:51] Garner asks Ham to tell us about trends he’s seeing with gang criminal activity in general 

  • Ham starts by explaining he wants listeners to understand what gangs sell: drugs, weapons, stolen property, human beings (human trafficking); but most importantly, gangs sell fear 
  • Ham informs listeners that gun possession is 3x what it was before the pandemic and violent crimes involving weapons (not just guns) are on the rise 
  • Ham discusses the biggest challenge the DJJ faces when investigating gang violence and gang activity 

[19:41] Ham poses a question he likes to use in training to listeners: How does a neighborhood clique of boys become affiliated with a national gang? 

  • Ham tells a story to answer this question and reveal a pattern he’s seen time and time again 
  • Following Ham’s story, Garner and Ham continue the discussion about gang legislation across the country 
  • Ham provides examples of states with strong gang legislation 

[24:29] Cleveland asks Ham to talk to listeners about what he wants law enforcement officers across the country, who aren’t regularly involved in gang investigations, to know about gangs, gang violence, and investigating gangs 

  • Ham says gang influence and gang violence touches every aspect of every life in a community 
  • Ham asks all law enforcement to use “gang glasses” for 30 seconds and bounce ideas off law enforcement who do specialize in gang investigations 
  • Cleveland talks about the importance of communication and collaboration across units 

[28:28] Cleveland wants to know how often mobile phones are involved in gang investigations and what type of evidence helps law enforcement gang activity  

  • Ham dives into social media and the role it plays in gang activity and investigations 
  • Ham talks about the “Gang Nexus” or “Iron Triangle” and how cell phones are the key to identifying them 
  • Ham says cell phone and social media extracts are often the nail in the coffin in gang investigations 


[33:27] Ham talks to listeners about the Georgia Gang Investigators Association (GGIA) 

  • President Jimmy Callaway of GGIA says his vision for the association is: “To disrupt and dismantle gangs throughout the great State of Georgia by teaching investigators and prosecutors best anti-gang practices and raise awareness of the gang crisis facing the State and Nation. Fostering a culture of visionary leadership along with setting a standard of successful gang enforcement with a matrix of gang act warrants, gang act indictments and gang act prosecutions. To be at the forefront of new anti-gang legislation and remaining active in the courts.” 
  • There are 1400 members of the GGIA across the state of Georgia and Ham says the association is exactly what President Callaway says it is 
  • Ham continues the conversation and discusses other organizations across the United States who are members of the National Alliance of Gang Investigators Association like the GGIA and how they all work together 

[38:10] Ham reflects on his time as the immediate past Director of Training for GGIA 

  • The GGIA started teaching tiered investigation classes in 2015 that’s certified and recognized through GGIA 
  • Ham describes to listeners what you can expect during each tier of learning should you choose to participate in the training 
  • The most recent course launched by the GGIA is the Human Trafficking Gang Investigators course 

[43:20] Cleveland asks Ham to talk to listeners about the most impactful gang related case he’s ever worked on while in law enforcement 

  • Ham recalls a case from 2014 that starts with gambling and ends with a murder carried out by a juvenile 
  • Ham says this is the case that that made him vow he would do everything in his power to stop gangs from stealing young people and ruining their lives 
  • Garner, Cleveland, and Ham close out the episode discussing where you can find and connect with Ham if you’d like to speak with him; his preferred email address is ray.ham@djj.state.ga.us  

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