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Attorney General Bill McCollum Press Release
McCollum: Education, Prevention, Rehabilitation Key to State Gang Strategy
~ Recommendations for development of multi-pronged strategy released from Gang Strategy Summit breakout groups ~
TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today released the full recommendations from his December Gang Reduction Strategy Summit which featured speakers and presentations from members of the Attorney General’s Gang Reduction Strategy Executive Group. The Summit consisted of six breakout groups targeting community resources, infrastructure and implementation; intervention; suppression and deterrence; prosecution and criminal justice system enhancements; rehabilitation and re-entry; and risk-based prevention.
“At the end of the day, gangs cannot continue to exist if we can keep our youth from joining these criminal organizations,” said Attorney General McCollum. “We need to reduce and eventually stop the growth of gangs before we can declare a victory for our state, and education and prevention will be key factors in that effort.”
Last week, the Attorney General joined legislative leaders to announce tough anti-gang legislation. The proposed bill includes streamlined definitions for gang members and stronger sentences for criminal gang organizations. The Attorney General today recognized the importance of a heavy-handed approach for those already indoctrinated as active gang members, but also emphasized that slowing and eventually stopping the growth of gangs in Florida will depend significantly on preventing recruitment through education and rehabilitation for former members.
One of the key recommendations is to establish a process for gang prevention and intervention that will engage multiple community sectors. The focus on neighborhood and community involvement will be essential in the cooperative anti-gang efforts as communities rally collectively against criminal gangs. Other important recommendations suggest the need for parent resources, including support groups, as well as the proposal for vocational or educational programs which could divert at-risk youth from gang recruitment.
Drug trafficking and abuse remain one of the key factors in the growth of gangs in Florida. Additional recommendations from the summit include recognition that rehabilitation and re-entry efforts aimed at Florida’s juvenile and adult inmates must begin much earlier in their incarceration and be more comprehensive if those efforts are to be successful. Participants in the summit also acknowledged that the successful effort to reduce gang and drug activity will be closely tied to finding ways to reduce the demand for illegal drugs.
The full recommendations from the Strategy Summit are available online at http://www.safeflorida.net/safestreets. The Executive Group will now turn its attention to developing Florida’s statewide strategy, based on the recommendations from the Summit's breakout groups and other expert sources. The strategy report is expected to be released later this spring.