Local Politics

Senate OKs crackdown on gangs

Posted May 21, 2008

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— The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation that its sponsors hope will crack down on gang activity in North Carolina.

North Carolina is one of the few states nationwide without laws that deal specifically with gangs, and state officials estimate 15,000 gang members operate in the state – roughly equivalent to the number of National Guard members statewide.

The Street Gang Prevention Act would increase penalties for gang members charged with crimes – actions that now are misdemeanors would become felonies, for example – and would make recruiting youths into gangs a crime in itself.

The Senate passed its own version of the bill, as well as the House version, which passed that chamber a year ago. Both bills now go back to the House for final approval.

"If we can focus on prevention and helping our youth stay in school and out of trouble, we can go a long way toward eradicating the presence of gangs in our state," said Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1358.

Craig Brown, a recently retired district court judge in Durham, two months ago called for lawmakers to put anti-gang legislation on the fast track following the deaths of Eve Carson, the student body president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Abhijit Mahato, a Duke University graduate student.

Police haven't said whether either slaying was gang-related, but Brown said the state needed to address what he saw as a growing wave of violent crimes in North Carolina.

Mayors and police officers from across the state gathered in Raleigh Wednesday morning to lobby for passage of the bill.

"It's critical we pass this legislation in order to make sure we send the message that we're not going to tolerate gang activity in North Carolina," Attorney General Roy Cooper said.

"Having it done on the state level, in my opinion, sends a very important signal that the community – the state – is not going to tolerate gang influence," Durham Mayor Bill Bell said.

"The issue we're dealing with here is about saving our youth," Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy said. "It's called gang legislation, but what it's about is saving the youth of North Carolina and preserving the cohesiveness of communities across this state."

In addition to the criminal penalties, the bill would provide state money for gang prevention programs at the county level. Finding the money in the state budget is a primary sticking point in the Senate, but state Rep. Micky Michaux, D-Durham, said the prevention programs are the real benefit of the legislation.

"It's not the punitive measures in there that count as much as the intervention, suppression and prevention," said Michaux, who sponsored House Bill 274. "If we don't grab this thing initially, it's going to really proliferate throughout the state."

"It's not going to be a silver bullet. There are no silver bullets," Gastonia Police Chief Terry Sult said. "It takes a community to come together and handle these situations. We're all standing here together saying we're ready to fight the fight."

In other legislative news Wednesday:

Toll roads

With unmanned toll roads on the horizon, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would set the fine for skipping out on tolls at $100 each time. The House bill would also provide for a collection fee of up to $20.

School buses

Also at the General Assembly on Wednesday, lawmakers considered a bill that would exempt school buses from state-required safety inspections. Current inspections only look at 10 percent of a school system's fleet.


Several state lawmakers want to help the medical examiner's office finish autopsies more quickly. A bill filed Thursday would provide nearly $1.5 million to increase staff at the office. The goal is to reduce autopsy times to 45 days at most.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sillsburykeitha May 22, 2008

    Hey maybe someone could try parenting

  • sillsburykeitha May 22, 2008

    Define gang, who are they? Are you sure you know, If an individual commits the same crime as someone in a gang, why should they get less punishment? how about this, instead of prision ( which are over crowded ), how about rehabilitation (ie: military survice. I'm tied of paying for someone to hang out with their friends. The law ( if passed ) would acually be unconstitutional. Good try though.

  • Iamcornholio May 22, 2008

    Sterilize them to make sure they can't create anymore humans like themselves. Execute the ones who committe murder on national tv and make it a horrible death, maybe some of these young people will not choose to join gangs or committ crimes once they start getting older. The less violent, meaning less than death, extremely hard labor for 15 years and give them bologna sandwiches for breakfast lunch and dinner, oops with koolaid.

  • TheAdmiral May 22, 2008

    Carolina Girl said: "this attitude (and Wake's ignoring of the gang problem) is why WCPSS (and any public school) will be down one more teacher at the end of this year. I will be taking my 12+ years in teaching and going to the privat sector...i guess they can give my raise to the "mice"'

    Sorry to hear that you are leaving. But understand - I have had 5 pay cuts of 5% for the last 5 years and I am tapped out. No more taxes - no more anything. I don't go to the movies - I don't go out to eat except on my wifes anniversary and birthday - I do not do anything but drive back and fourth to work and back and I am getting to a tipping point.

    The letter just went out for a 30% raise. If there is no raise or it is less than that - I would be better off on unemployment.

    We have our cross to bear - but understand - there ARE people out here who are working their buns off only to be hit with another pay cut. You don't get a raise - that is a raise in my opinion. I get a pay cut.

  • hawk_fan May 21, 2008

    carolinagirl -- sorry to hear that you are leaving public education. I can't imagine what it would be like teaching in Wake. I prefer a rural school setting, but the gangs have made their way to us, too. I've taught in tough area with a lot of poverty, but the gang members were the biggest challenge that I faced in over 20 years of teaching.

  • hawk_fan May 21, 2008

    We had some hard-core, in-your-face gang members from larger cities move into our area , and I hated seeing how intimidated our students became. The kids were terrified to tell what was happening because they are afraid they would be harmed. I had a few who were even afraid to use the restroom during the day.

    They put graffiti on the desks, lockers, and walls and caused all sorts of problems we never faced before. I never ever, until that year, wished that a student would drop out. Some of their parents were gang members, too, while others just seemed to have lost control of their kids.

    Now when I see movies or videos glorifying gang life, my stomach turns.

    I'm sure that this legislation has a lot to do with an election year, but at least law-makers aren't pretending the problem doesn't exist.

  • carolinagirl75 May 21, 2008

    . FIND THE MONEY. Take it away from pork barrel, take some of the 7% from the teachers, take away the bonus, tat they get for doing what they are paid to do from the start. Mice raises and bonus are great during good times, but look at the big raise those on Social Security got tis year 2.4%, which was taken back with a huge increase in medicare and supplemental insurance. Crime prevention or punishment is a top priority in NC and the nation.
    GOLO member since November 25, 2007
    May 21, 2008 5:49 p.m

    this attitude (and Wake's ignoring of the gang problem) is why WCPSS (and any public school) will be down one more teacher at the end of this year. I will be taking my 12+ years in teaching and going to the privat sector...i guess they can give my raise to the "mice"

  • whatusay May 21, 2008

    No one is looking at what causes gangs to organize.....WELFARE.
    Eliminate welfare and in one generatire gangs will be gone. Our government has created gangs by giving women income for having illigitimate children. The more they have the more money government gives them. Eliminate welfare and eliminate crime and gangs.

  • howdiditgettothis May 21, 2008

    We don't need another committee to spend our tax dollars deciding what to do IF and WHEN.

    We need strong laws that protect the innocent and serve justice to criminals.

    20 years of HARD labor served sledging rocks (with no early releases) would do a LOT more to deter crime than 20 years in our current judicial system (or some "gang" committee).

  • gnew46 May 21, 2008

    The Hamas designation and one way ticket to Gitmo works for me. These punks are a drain on society.