Schiff, Bono Mack Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address Gang Violence

Official Seal of the US House of Representatives

Thursday, February 12, 2009 Contact: Sean Oblack (202) 225-4176

Schiff, Bono Mack Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Address Gang Violence

Bill provides substantial resources for prevention and enhances tools to go after offenders

Washington, D.C. – This afternoon, Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Mary Bono-Mack (R-CA) introduced bipartisan legislation to halt gang violence. The Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Act (H.R. 1022) would provide new resources for community-based gang prevention and intervention activities. The bill would also revise criminal laws and penalties to give gang prosecutors new tools in the fight against gang violence. The legislation will target resources to communities with severe gang activity and includes more than $1 billion in funding for law enforcement, prevention, and intervention programs.

“As a former federal prosecutor, I know the damage gangs cause in our community,” said Schiff. “This bill takes concrete steps in fighting gang violence by increasing federal support for proven gang prevention efforts to keep kids out of trouble. But equally, for those who do engage in gang violence, the bill will give law enforcement an enhanced ability to crack down on gang offenders and increase penalties for those gang members who terrorize our communities.”

“We need to do everything in our power to keep our neighborhoods – and children – safe from gang violence,” said Bono Mack.  “Gangs are becoming increasingly organized and affecting suburban communities.  It is time we take strong, collaborative steps to fight back.  By working on multiple levels – from prevention programs that will keep kids out of gangs in the first place to increased law enforcement efforts – this bill will help curb this problem facing our nation.  I applaud Congressman Schiff for his work on this issue and look forward to working on a bipartisan basis to get this legislation passed.”

“Gang violence continues to plague our nation’s cities, suburbs and rural areas. The FBI estimates there are more than 1 million gang members nationwide. More than 20 percent of the homicides in California in 2007 were gang-related,” Senator Feinstein said.  “This legislation provides a balanced approach. It offers sensible federal penalties. It also addresses the root causes of gang violence by identifying and investing in successful community programs to prevent young people from joining gangs in the first place.”

“We first introduced comprehensive gang legislation more than 10 years ago. It has passed the Senate but we’ve never been able to get this bill through the House of Representatives,” Senator Feinstein continued.  “Congress needs to act now and lend this much-needed and long-awaited assistance to local and state agencies battling gang violence. I look forward to working with Congressman Schiff in this effort.”

“According to the Los Angeles Police Department, there were 381 homicides in the City of Los Angeles in 2008, and 167 were gang-related, over 40 percent. The 2009 Gang Threat Assessment by the National Gang Intelligence Center predicts in coming years, “Most regions in the United States will experience increased gang membership, continued migration of gangs to suburban and rural areas, and increased gang-related criminal activity.” The report also estimates that there are already one million criminally active gang members belonging to 20,000 gangs across the nation as of September 2008.

Chief Bernard Melekian said about Rep. Schiff’s legislation, “As Chief of Police for the City of Pasadena, I’ve seen firsthand the terrible toll that gangs takes on our neighborhoods. I have gone to too many funerals for young people and stood in too many living rooms explaining to families why their loved one will never be home again. The Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Act will enhance the ability of local law enforcement to crack down on violent gang members, while helping to provide alternatives to gangs for young people in our communities. I look forward to working to pass this vital legislation.”

The Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Act would authorize over $1 billion spread out over five years for prevention and enforcement efforts. Much of the funding would be directed toward the High Intensity Gang Activity Area (HIGAA) 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 HIGAA funding, or $250 million, would be specified for community-based intervention and prevention initiatives focused on at-risk youth. Additional funding is also included in the bill for education and employment programs targeted at former gang members to help them attain a GED, develop job skills, and be placed in an apprenticeship.

The Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Act would give gang prosecutors new tools to combat gang-related crime by:

  • Creating new criminal gang offenses to prohibit recruitment for street gangs and target gangs who recruit children;
  • Enhancing penalties for repeated violent gang crime offenses;
  • Establishing penalties for violence committed in drug trafficking related offenses; 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 the prevention of crime as in the suppression of crime. The bill introduced today is similar to legislation that Rep. Schiff introduced in 2007.

Rep. Schiff was appointed to serve on the House Appropriations Committee in the 110th Congress and is a member of its Commerce, Justice, and Science Subcommittee, the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, and the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel. He also serves on the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He represents California’s 29th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Alhambra, Altadena, Burbank, East Pasadena, East San Gabriel, Glendale, Monterey Park, Pasadena, San Gabriel, South Pasadena and Temple City.