RALEIGH, N.C. — Federal authorities say they hope tougher sentences on known gang members will help curb gang activity.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Goulian says federal charges carry more prison time and that increased penalties can help get to the root of the gang problem.
"It makes the defendant much more likely to cooperate, because ultimately, what we are looking for is information about who the other gang members are and the structure and organizations of the gang," Goulian said.
This week, for example, the U.S. Attorney General's Office announced the convictions of several confirmed Raleigh gang members and associates on federal firearms and drug charges – some who face prison sentences up to 22 years.
"Any additional help we can get as to what the gangs are involved in, and who the players are is a definite asset to us all," said Lt. A.D. Nichol with the Raleigh Police Department's Gang Suppression Unit.
In recent weeks, a melee at Raleigh's Triangle Town Center mall and a shooting on the campus of North Carolina State University, have highlighted the Capital City's growing gang problem, which police Chief Harry Dolan described as "significant."
Nichol says the federal partnership also helps keep repeat offenders of violent crimes off the streets.
"With their enhanced sentencing, they're a major part in the fight against gang violence that we have here in the city," he said.
"We are definitely making more than just a dent, we are taking some serious offenders off the streets, but the problem is still getting worse," Goulian said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice's Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative also awarded Wake and Durham counties a $2.5 million grant for gang prevention, law enforcement and community action.
Enacted in 2006, the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative, is already in place in six other sites across the nation and has already made strides in those cities, the justice department said.
For example, in Cleveland, one of the most violent gangs operating in the area has been dismantled and prosecutions have resulted in 168 federal and state convictions.
By 2007, homicides were down by approximately 39 percent and violent crimes were down approximately 15 percent.