Senate approves legislation to reduce gang membership
Thursday, February 21, 2008
LANSING - Members of the Michigan Senate unanimously approved legislation Thursday to reduce gang involvement and violence across Michigan, said bill sponsor Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township.
"When my bills are signed, local law enforcement officials and prosecutors will have more tools to address the growing problem of gangs in Michigan," Jansen said. "If we want to reduce the number of gang participants then we have to get at the root of the problem and punish those recruiting our youth."
Jansen said Senate Republicans advocate a comprehensive approach to help reduce gang membership and give kids a better chance to pursue more productive paths for themselves.
Senate Bills 660 and 661 call for a new five year felony with a fine of up to $5,000 for encouraging or soliciting gang membership. The bill also creates a 20-year felony with a fine up to $20,000 for retaliation against individuals for withdrawing from a gang.
The proposals would allow a judge to sentence criminals consecutively for another felony or an attempt to commit a felony from the same incident.
Jansen is concerned about the dramatic increase in gang and youth violent criminal activity in metropolitan west Michigan, as well as across our state and country.
In a one month span last year, 119 self-admitted gang members were booked into the Kent County Jail. These individuals pledged allegiance to 33 different gangs. The city of Wyoming in particular has seen an increase in violence, gang graffiti and gang membership.
Communities like Wyoming and their law enforcement agencies, along with the Wyoming Youth Initiative Program, are providing gang awareness training to parents, teachers, residents, businesses, churches, courts and school groups. They also are hosting gang investigator meetings and have instituted anti-gang graffiti ordinances.
"I'm glad to see such important pieces of legislation overwhelmingly approved by my colleagues," Jansen said. "I look forward to working with my counterparts in the House and ultimately seeing these bills signed into law."
SBs 660 and 661 will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.