Schiff Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent Gang Violence

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to halt gang violence.  The Gang Abatement and Prevention Act (H.R. 1582) would create new criminal gang offenses and require harsher penalties for illegal gang members who are convicted of those crimes, while focusing on providing new resources for community-based programs that seek to prevent future gang activity.  Significantly, the bill also includes more than $1 billion in funding for law enforcement, prevention, and intervention programs. Rep. Mary Bono (R-CA) cosponsored the measure in the House and Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) have introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

“As a former federal prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the damage gangs cause in our community,” said Schiff. “This bill takes concrete steps in fighting gang violence by increasing federal support for law enforcement and by cracking down on gang offenders and increasing penalties for those gang members who terrorize our communities. At the same time, and of equal importance, this legislation takes the next step in prevention and intervention efforts in order to protect our children from gang violence.”

“My great thanks go to Representatives Schiff and Bono for introducing this important gang legislation in the House of Representatives,” Senator Feinstein said.  “This bill provides more than $1 billion of support for prevention programs that aim to keep our children out of criminal street gangs, law enforcement programs that help put an end to the gang violence terrorizing our neighborhoods, and witness protection initiatives.”

“As our nation feels the effects of increasing gang violence, the federal government cannot wait any longer to strengthen its own criminal laws and lend this much-needed hand of assistance to the local agencies battling gang violence.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger supports the bill, stating, “Gang violence is a problem in communities all over California.  We need to have a coordinated approach among federal, state and local governments to work together and eliminate this problem.  I support your legislation, The Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007, and appreciate that it would establish new crimes and tougher federal penalties to deter and punish members of illegal street gangs.  I also strongly support the federal funding authorized in your bill for suppression, prevention and intervention programs.”

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, crime in Los Angeles has decreased for the last five years.  However gang-related crime is on the rise. In 2006, gang-related crime increased by 15.7 percent citywide.  That translates into 1,046 additional gang-related crimes in 2006 from the previous year. Those crimes include additions in homicides, attempted homicides, felony assaults, and robberies.

The Gang Abatement and Prevention Act would authorize over $1 billion spread out over five years for enforcement and prevention efforts.   Nearly half of the funding would be directed toward the High Intensity Interstate Gang Activity Area (HIIGAA) program.  This program facilitates cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement in identifying, targeting and eliminating violent gangs in areas where gang activity is particularly prevalent.  Half of the HIIGAA funding, or $250 million, would be specified for community-based intervention and prevention initiatives focused on at-risk youth.  This funding would increase resources for the DOJ, federal prosecutors and FBI agents to help assist in coordinating enforcement efforts. 

The Gang Abatement and Prevention Act would create harsher penalties for gang related crime by:

  • Creating new criminal gang offenses to prohibit recruitment for street gangs and target gangs who recruit children (up to 10 years in prison, up to 20 years for recruiting a minor, up to 20 years if recruiting from prison);
  • Establishing specific penalties for violent gang crime (up to life imprisonment for murder, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault or maiming, up to 30 years for any other serious violent felony, up to 20 years for any other violent crime);
  • Creating penalties for violence committed in drug trafficking related offences; and
  • Enacting various other changes to federal criminal code to more effectively deter and punish violence by criminal street gangs and other violent criminals.

Rep. Schiff has long fought to end gang violence dating back to his days as a federal prosecutor and State Senator.  While serving in the State Senate, he introduced landmark anti-gang legislation, called “The Schiff Cardenas Crime Prevention Act of 2000,” which for the first time invested as much in prevention of crime as in the suppression of crime.  This is the second time that Reps. Schiff and Bono have teamed up on gang violence legislation.  They introduced similar legislation in the 109th Congress in 2005.