Pricey Harrison

Friday, August 05, 2005

Reducing Gang Violence

State legislators, law enforcement officers and local elected officials from across the state held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the growing problem of gang violence and possible action to take to reduce the criminal activity in our communities. I co-sponsored House Bill 50, the Street Gang Prevention Act.

Rep. Mickey Michaux (D-Durham), who chaired the House Select Committee on Gang Violence Prevention prior to the start of the 2005 General Assembly, introduced the legislation, House Bill 50, to combat gang violence by creating additional felonies and stiffer penalties for gang members. It also seeks $20 million for gang prevention initiatives and $150,000 for a statewide database of criminal gang members. The House budget provided $3 million in grants that would be provided to community organizations with prevention programs.

The Governor's Crime Commission recently released a report, which found 387 gangs in North Carolina with 8,517 members last year. This statistic is up 68 percent when compared with police responses from a 1999 questionnaire. However, it is not clear how much those numbers signal a rise in gang membership and how much is attributed to police better recognizing gang activity. Many police agencies are now reporting and tracking gang-related crimes better than in years past. Federal officials also announced earlier this week that they had made 582 arrests across the nation, including 77 in North Carolina, during its "Operation Community Shield" sweep of violent gangs. North Carolina led other states in the number of arrests, including 18 in the Charlotte region, 34 in Raleigh and 25 in Winston-Salem.

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