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Attorney General Bill McCollum Press Release
Attorney General, Legislative Leaders Announce Tough Anti-Gang Legislation
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today joined Senate and House leaders to announce tough anti-gang legislation targeting Florida’s growing criminal gang problem. The proposed legislation, sponsored by Senator Jeff Atwater and Representative William Snyder, will help law enforcement and prosecutors combat gang activity by streamlining the definition of gang members, enhancing the ability for prosecutors to include previous criminal actions under RICO charges, and creating a “Gang Kingpin” statute. The legislation closely follows the recently released recommendations of the 18th Statewide Grand Jury.
“We are making it an absolute priority to combat criminal gangs in our state,” said Attorney General McCollum. “This legislation will provide essential tools to law enforcement and prosecutors as they lead our state in this effort.”
The proposed legislation incorporates the Grand Jury’s recommendations for harsher penalties and restricts felons and delinquents from possessing bullet-proof vests, an important public safety measure. Under the suggested bill, there will be increased penalties for habitual offenders convicted of gang-related crimes and new laws to better protect witnesses.
"Pocketbooks are tight all over the state this year, but when it comes to public safety, we must do everything we can to provide law enforcement with the tools they need to fight the increasing threat of gang violence," said Senator Atwater (R—North Palm Beach). "Combating gang violence is one of my legislative priorities, which is why Representative Snyder and I filed this legislation."
“Florida has a growing gang problem, and the time to do something about it is now,” said Representative Snyder (R—Stuart). “Our law enforcement leaders tell us they need this legislation to effectively combat this threat to our state.”
The bill also creates a registration requirement for gang members and encourages local law enforcement to work closely with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to use and maintain the criminal gang database. Other provisions of the bill include remedies that allow for civil injunctions to be issued against gangs and their members and the creation of the Drug Control Strategy and Criminal Gang Committee within the Florida Violent Crime and Drug Control Council.
According to the 18th Statewide Grand Jury Interim Report, not only has the number of gangs and gang membership increased in Florida, but also the number of violent crimes committed by gangs. The report, overseen by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, states that gang members are becoming more sophisticated and looking for more training opportunities. Gangs have moved beyond spreading graffiti on warehouse walls to using social networking sites on the internet to boast about their activities and to recruit new members.
Joining the Attorney General and the bill sponsors at today’s announcement was Statewide Prosecutor William Shepherd, who serves as Legal Advisor to the Statewide Grand Jury, and Emery Gainey, the Attorney General’s Director of Law Enforcement Relations, who spoke on behalf of Florida’s law enforcement community. Also present were Senator Victor Crist (R—Tampa), Chair of the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Committee, Representative Dick Kravitz (R—Jacksonville), Chairman of the House Safety and Security Council, Representative Sandy Adams (R—Orlando), Chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, Representative Dennis Ross (R—Lakeland), Chairman of the House Committee on Courts. Senator Paula Dockery (R—Lakeland), Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Policy and Calendar Committee, also added her support.
“I commend the Statewide Grand Jury for their commitment to this issue and the Attorney General for bringing this important issue to the Florida Legislature,” said Senator Crist. “It is very clear that we need to throw all of our efforts behind the fight against gangs and I look forward to seeing these recommendations become law.”
“The Statewide Grand Jury has spoken with its recommendations and we need to see these suggestions made into state law,” said Senator Dockery. “These groups are brazen and extremely dangerous and it is time to get serious with our anti-gang efforts.”
“No community should have to fear the danger of crime and gangs,” said Representative Kravitz. “We are committed to helping protect our communities with legislation that provides safeguards for responsible citizens and harsher penalties for those who commit crimes.”
“This important legislation will help protect Florida’s citizens, make our streets safer, and empower local law enforcement officials with the tools they need to break-up these gangs,” said Representative Adams.
“Criminal gang activity in Florida endangers our state’s quality of life. With this legislation, we will crackdown on gangs and help move Florida forward to a safer future,” said Representative Ross.
The legislation is filed under Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 43. A copy of the key recommendations from the Statewide Grand Jury is available here.