Local News

Bill Would Stiffen Penalties for Gang-Related Crimes

Posted March 17, 2008

— Police haven't said if they think the slayings of Abhijit Mahoto or Eve Carson are gang-related, but the cases have fueled a new debate on tougher anti-gang legislation anyway.

It started last week when Durham County District Judge Craig Brown, during an initial court appearance by one of the suspects, called on the governor and other state leaders to hold a special legislative session to take immediate action.

ATM surveillance photos in Carson's killing show one of the suspects, Lawrence Alvin Lovette jr., wearing a hat with a vintage Houston Astros logo, a symbol known to be tied to gangs. A judge's ruling in 2005 ordered the other suspect, Demario James Atwater, to stay away from gangs.

State lawmakers say that although it's still speculation what involvement, if any, gangs have in either death, they do know that gangs are a growing problem in the Triangle.

The state House of Representatives passed House Bill 272, "The Gang Prevention Act," late last year. It would define gang activity and increase penalties for gang-related crimes. The bill is now in the Senate and is expected to be considered in the short session of the General Assembly that begins in May.

So far, however, the funding needed to make the legislation work is absent, legislators say.

"It will not, in my opinion, get better without funding," said Rep. Marian McLawhorn, D-Pitt, who is on a state committee dealing with gang prevention.

Lawmakers are also consulting with local law-enforcement agencies to determine ways to intervene with, prevent and suppress gang activity.

"What we're going to do is, very carefully, craft a bill that sends a message that gangs are not welcome and (that) they're not the way to go," Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, said.

Kinnaird said keeping children and teenagers out of gangs needs to be a key component of any legislation.

"We're going to also, I hope, find a way to say to those kids, 'We've got something very creative and productive for you to do so you can become good citizens instead of terrible monsters that some of these gang members have become.'"

Opponents of the legislation have said it might allow police to target innocent people wearing what appears to be gang-affiliated clothing.

Lawmakers say they are willing to streamline the legislation to make sure it only targets those who break the law.

A graduate student at Duke University, Mahato, 29, was found shot to death in his apartment a few blocks from campus on Jan. 18. Carson, 22, a senior and the student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was found shot to death on a street in an upscale neighborhood about a half-mile from the campus March 5.


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  • FragmentFour Mar 19, 2008

    Well, I suppose, if the gang problems are supposed to be rooted in shiftless parents who simply produce to get paid, the logical move would be to put a tax on children. Or at least a "community maintenance fee" of some sort. Like a use tax for the state in which they were born. Unless the parent(s) were victims of a sexual assault which resulted in birth, when the child is born they/she/he either pays up or goes forth to work it off.

    Not gonna happen. Probably shouldn't. But I can't think of any other way at the moment.

  • colliedave Mar 18, 2008

    Take BET and anything that glorifies the gangsta lifestyle off the air. Boycott the record companies that sell the garbage. Bring corporal punishment back to schools. Cane those who spray buildings with graffiti. We are reaping the results of over a generation of social liberalism. Can you imagine the next generation if nothing is done?

  • whatusay Mar 18, 2008

    Do away with government welfare and in one generation gangs will be gone. Government paying women to have children and give them a raise everytime they have another one. No family, no father, no discipline, no education, no future. Gangs will exist until welfare is eliminated. Goverment is paying Americans to sit at home and that is why we have so many illegals doing the work. Eliminate welfare and the new rule is "WORK OR STARVE". Have children you can't support and you all work or starve. Enough of the handouts creating more crime and gangs.

  • chfdcpt Mar 18, 2008

    Way to go legislature. Let's pass another new law, so that you can brag about it come re-election day. Of course, we will forget about this and send you back to Raleigh. The same way that we keep sending the judges back to the bench that don't enforce the laws, etc.

  • PeaceOut2017 Mar 18, 2008

    more political chest thumping

  • Vincenzo R. Abacus Mar 18, 2008

    This is going to be a brilliant bit of lawmaking. I'm completely certain that gang members who rob and murder at will today, will stop and think twice about shooting someone tomorrow when confronted with "tough" anti-gang legislation.

    (Why yes, I am being sarcastic, what ever could have given you that idea?)

  • bobbythreesticks Mar 18, 2008

    Parents are our #1 defense against gangs, if they aren't doing their job raising their kids, we will never win a gang battle.

  • fatchanceimwrong Mar 18, 2008

    Neither our government nor law enforcement can do anything that will make an impact on gang violence. They cannot win the battle against gangs, drugs or illegal immigration. All they are able to do is react when crimes are committed. The only way to effectively combat these issues that are degrading society is to overwhelm them with military assitance, and on a large scale. Soldiers on the streets with weapons, ready to protect the public with force. Armed soldiers on the borders with the authority to use force as necessary. But the public will never allow it...so we are destined to be victims to the violence from gangs. As illegal immigration continues, we'll see more gang activity.

  • Mar 18, 2008

    Until these killers are classified as urban/domestic terrorists, nothing will be done.

    Don't want to be picked up by the police as a suspected gang member? Don't wear gang related paraphernalia. PERIOD.

  • veyor Mar 18, 2008

    If it passes we'll have the bill and the funding, but we'll still have the same courts, so we'll be right back where we started.