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Contact: John Gentzel 202-225-4315

Combating Gang Violence

Washington, May 12, 2005 - Gang violence is a growing problem no longer isolated to the dark street corners of our nation’s inner cities and populated urban areas. Gangs of the most violent nature are operating in our schools, our neighborhoods and communities with no regard for the laws of justice that govern our lives. It’s a problem that, despite a decrease in the number of overall violent crimes nationally, continues to steadily worsen. According to a recent National Youth Gang survey of local law enforcement officials from around the country, 42 percent said their problem with gangs was getting worse, not better. We need to give law enforcement officials better tools and weapons to fight this growing problem.

On May 11, I joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives in passing the Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act of 2005. This legislation will increase federal funding for law enforcement efforts at all levels to combat gang violence and will go a long way toward ridding our communities of violent gangs and returning peace and order to our streets and neighborhoods.

The United States Department of Justice estimates that there are more than 25,000 active gangs and some 750,000 active gang members throughout the county. Many of these gangs are involved in running high-level prostitution rings, selling stolen property and trafficking illegal guns and drugs. Many of the most infamous gangs are highly structured and are operating very much like organized crime syndicates. The Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act of 2005 will authorize the spending of more than $388 million for law enforcement officials at all levels to combat gangs and rid our streets of the violence and fear these gangs breed.

Additionally, the legislation includes harsher penalties for gang members perpetrating horrific crimes against society, including mandatory life sentences or death for any gang-related crime that results in a death. The legislation imposes mandatory minimum sentences of more than 30 years for instances of kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and maiming and mandatory minimum sentences of 20 years for assaults resulting in serious bodily injury. This legislation will also extend the statute of limitations for violent crimes, increase penalties for criminal use of firearms in crimes of violence or drug trafficking and allow authorities to try more 16- and 17-year-old gang members as adults. Authorities have told us that the threat of harsher penalties is an absolutely critical tool to have available in order to get lower level gang members to implicate their fellow members.

I was proud to support this legislation because I believe it will go a long way toward reversing the disturbing trend of increased gang violence in our cities and neighborhoods.

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