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Attorney General Bill McCollum Press Release
McCollum Announces Impanelment of Statewide Grand Jury
~ Attorney General, Statewide Prosecutor and Legislative leaders join forces to combat violent gangs~
TALLAHASSEE, FL - Attorney General Bill McCollum today announced the impanelment of the Statewide Grand Jury on gangs. Joined by the Statewide Prosecutor and Legislative leaders, the Attorney General declared a joint effort in combating the dramatic increase in gang related activity across the state, and announced that the Statewide Grand Jury will be impaneled early next week.
“The Statewide Grand Jury is an important first step in strengthening law enforcement action on this statewide concern,” said Attorney General Bill McCollum. “Gangs are highly organized groups of individuals who are recruiting our children into a life of crime and violence and are the primary retail outlet for illegal drugs in our communities. By ensuring necessary steps are now taken, we are proactively safeguarding against the proliferation of future gang activity in our state.”
Organized by the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, the Grand Jury will investigate criminal gang activity and indict for crimes which can include narcotics or other dangerous drugs, robbery and gambling, as well as violations of the Florida Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organization (RICO) Act. The jurors will serve as a “citizen legislature” which will study various criminal issues and make recommendations to the legislature on needed laws to deter gang activities and punish those involved in these pursuits. Additionally, jurors will provide educational and prevention recommendations to law enforcement agencies, schools, churches and other community based organizations to assist in keeping Florida’s children safe.
Attorney General Bill McCollum was joined by Senator Atwater (R-North Palm Beach), Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach), and Representative William Snyder (R-Stuart) in making today’s announcement, which included information about recently proposed legislation intended to strengthen Florida laws against gang related activity. The Attorney General thanked Leader Hasner for his efforts and collaboration on combating this serious issue and praised Senator Atwater and Representative Snyder for sponsoring the legislation.
“We see the problem firsthand here in Palm Beach County,” said Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R-Delray Beach) who was a prime cosponsor of the original gang bill last session. “These well-organized and well-equipped street gangs represent a violent form of domestic terrorism that we must confront. With the Attorney General’s support, this bill can make a real difference, which is great news for our law enforcement officers and our communities.”
The gang legislation being filed by Senator Atwater and Representative Snyder will provide powerful new tools to law enforcement including: 3rd degree felony for convicted felons to possess bulletproof vests; mandatory condition of probation prohibiting association with gang members; 3rd degree felony for recruitment into a criminal street gang; and the creation of a civil gang injunction, a violation of which will constitute a misdemeanor. The legislation will be expanded to include recommendations from the Grand Jury’s interim report, expected to be issued in December.
"The residents of Palm Beach County have seen the disturbing effects of criminal street gangs and the violent crimes they commit," said Senator Jeff Atwater (R-North Palm Beach). "Gangs have no regard for law abiding citizens and we need to do everything possible to secure our streets and protect Floridians from the violence of street gangs."
“As a former law enforcement officer, I have seen first hand what these street gangs can do,” said Representative Will Snyder (R-Stuart). “Gangs are becoming more organized, their crimes are becoming more violent, and they must be stopped."
At the request of the Statewide Prosecutor, the Governor petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to convene a Grand Jury to investigate the increase in crimes related to gang activity. The Court issued the order convening the Grand Jury in June and determined the jury will be based in West Palm Beach but will investigate criminal activity statewide. The order in its entirety is available here.
According to the US Department of Justice, gang related problems have been reported for all 50 States and the District of Columbia. According to a recent study, Florida experienced more growth in gang violence in 25 years than any other state in the nation. Additionally, law enforcement believes that more than 1,000 gangs with an estimated 65,000 members are active within the state. For more information on the Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, please visit: http://www.myfloridalegal.com.