(Dec. 30, 2004) -- Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) has announced plans to reintroduce federal legislation (with Senator Orrin Hatch (R., UT) that targets gang activity, including the recruitment of children to join street gangs.
"Street gangs are spreading and growing, crossing city and state borders, and increasing in violent activity," said Senator Feinstein in a written release, adding "Gangs destroy neighborhoods, cripple families, and kill innocent people. The growth in size and complexity of gangs requires a carefully tailored federal response that can bring to bear the resources of federal law enforcement, while at the same time preserving the traditional role of state and local police and prosecutors. This bill will do that."
As described in the release, the "Gang Prevention and Effective Deterrence Act" would authorize $650 million over the next five years to support federal, state and local law enforcement efforts against violent gangs, including witness protection, intervention and prevention programs for at-risk youth, and additional funds for federal prosecutors and FBI agents involved in coordinated enforcement efforts against violent gangs.
The release says the bill would also create new criminal gang prosecution offenses, enhance existing gang and violent crime penalties, proposes changes in handling violent crimes enabling more effective prosecution of gang members, and proposes changes to facilitate federal prosecution of 16 and 17 year old gang members who commit serious acts of violence.
"The bottom line is that gangs represent a serious, national threat, and the problem calls for a serious national response," Senator Feinstein said in the release.
In the past, similar legislation has stalled. In 1996, Senators Feinstein, Hatch and others introduced legislation that would have increased criminal penalties for gang members, made recruiting persons into a criminal street gang a crime, and enhanced penalties for transferring a gun to a minor. Many provisions of that bill were put into the 1999 Juvenile Justice bill, which the Senate approved (73-25) but the bill stalled in a House-Senate conference Committee and the provisions never became law. The bill was approved by the Judiciary Committee in the now-concluding Congressional sessionb but was never brought to the Senate floor.
"We worked hard on this bill in the last Congress, building a bipartisan consensus. And while we made great progress, there was not enough time for the whole Senate to consider the bill. [In 2005] we will return to this task, and I am confident we will pass legislation addressing this terrible problem," Senator Feinstein said in her office's release.