Senate Passes USCM Supported Anti-Gang Legislation
By Ed Somers
October 8, 2007
By unanimous consent, the U.S. Senate approved legislation on September 21 to authorize more than $1 billion for gang prevention, intervention and suppression programs, as well as create tough federal penalties to punish members of street gangs, protect witnesses and ensure against witness intimidation.
The bi-partisan bill (S. 456), sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA) and Orrin Hatch (UT), would authorize:
- $412 million over five years for gang prevention and intervention, including new High Intensity Gang Activity Areas;
- $270 million over three years for witness protection needs, including those of state and local prosecutors;
- $100 million over five years to expand the Project Safe Neighborhood program, with an expansion of prosecutors and law enforcement agents focused on reducing violence and gun crimes by gang members;
- $50 million over five years for expansion of the FBI’s Safe Streets Program, to investigate and prosecute violent street gangs and criminals, and to establish a national gang database designed to interact with regional gang databases pursuant to controls and privacy protections established by regulation; and
- $100 million over five years to expand crime control grants to state and local governments, so they can hire additional prosecutors, staff and technology as needed to bring more cases against gangs and violent criminals.
On the enforcement side, the bill would:
- make recruiting of criminal street gang members a federal crime;
- make illegal activities by criminal street gangs a federal crime. A “criminal street gang” is defined to mean a formal or informal group, organization or association of five or more persons who each commit at least one gang crime, and who collectively commit three or more separate gang crimes – including at least one serious violent felony – within the past five years;
- make violent activities in furtherance of gangs a federal crime;
- create a new federal crime for murder and other violent crimes committed in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime; and
- establish new penalties for gang-related crimes.
In response to the recent spikes in crime in America’s cities, the nation’s mayors have called for stronger federal local partnerships on hometown security, as well as Congressional support for anti-crime programs. This priority is reflected in the Mayors’ 10-Point Plan: Strong Cities, Strong Families, for a Strong America.
“We applaud Senators Feinstein and Hatch for hearing our concerns and being so diligent in their efforts to usher this measure through the Senate,” said Conference President Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer.
House Action Needed
Bi-partisan companion legislation has been introduced in the House by Representatives Adam Schiff (CA) and Mary Bono (CA). H.R. 3547 would authorize $1.2 billion over the next five years for prevention and intervention programs for anti-gang suppression activities and for witness protection programs. The bill would also facilitate the prosecution of criminal street gang offenses and stiffens penalties for those crimes.
A hearing was held on the bill in the House Judiciary Committee on October 2, and it is hoped that a markup will be scheduled within the next two weeks. The Conference of Mayors sent a letter of support for the bill, and is urging that it be quickly passed so that it can be reconciled with the Senate bill and sent to the President for his signature.