Police in Augusta, Georgia hit upon a brilliant idea to catch gangbangers: just open a head shop / tattoo parlor and watch criminals walk in to sell their illegal weapons!
The tattoo parlor was the brainchild of Richmond County Sheriff Ron Strength, who wanted to snuff out gangs carrying out violent crimes in his east Georgia community.
The idea was to create a place where the gang members would feel right at home, said sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles. And that they did.
"We put the idea in their heads that there's no way these guys are in law enforcement," he said. [...]
Business was slow at first, but then things took off. Gang members soon began dropping in to sell guns, drugs and even stolen cars, authorities said. Every transaction was recorded by surveillance cameras around the store.
Soon the shop had so much business the Richmond County Sheriff's Office had to call in reinforcements from the ATF. Four federal agents helped the sheriff's deputies man the counters; others worked behind the scenes.
Vanessa McLemore, ATF special agent in charge, said the teams had to coordinate their behaviors so it seemed like they fit in the store. "They spent a lot of time together learning each other's mannerisms, learning each other's body language. It had to be a brotherhood," she said.
On the store counter was a jar of colored markers to invite clients to write their favorite gang affiliation on the wall. Peebles said agents used the wall for intelligence. "At the very least we got names," he said.
The shop even put up its' own MySpace page. "You think it, we ink it" was the MySpace slogan. It featured the back of a tattooed man, and below in large red letters agents told visitors to the site, "We buy what others won't."