Local News

Proposed Bill Would Provide Tougher Penalties For Gang-Related Crimes

Posted March 11, 2005 4:17 a.m. EST

— State legislators claim gangs are a growing statewide problem they cannot ingore.

Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham, said the Street Gang Prevention Act offers up tougher penalties for gang-related crimes. It would make it a felony to recruit someone to join a gang. Plus, certain suspects could be denied bail.

"You pick up the paper and every day, you see people executed gang-style," Michaux said. "Now, we're just trying to get a handle on it."

District Court Judge Marcia Morey believes lawmakers are looking in the wrong direction.

"To say the state of North Carolina is in a crisis is a way to get legislation passed," she said. "We do need to do something, but what I think we need to do is enforce the laws we have."

Gang prosecutor John Phillips said the bill addresses problems current laws do not cover.

"It punishes folks who come from out of state and recruit our young people," Phillips said.

The bill could add more than 1,500 inmates to an already overcrowded prison system. It could cost taxpayers upwards of $100 million over the next 10 years.

"If I take one gang member off the street and he doesn't do any shootings for a year, what about that cost, that savings?" Phillips said.

"Let's get to the root of the problem. Let's get kids in school learning. Let's get afterschool programs," Morey said.

The bill does include $20 million in grants for prevention and intervention programs. It will be up to legislators to decide if the bill is needed.

A similiar bill was proposed last year. Michaux said it never made it out of committee because of the hefty price tag.


Don Ingle