Cracking down on Gang Activity
April 1, 2005
Recently, I co-sponsored a bill to authorize increased funding to support federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts against violent gangs and coordinate agencies' efforts to share intelligence and jointly investigate gangs. The Gang Deterrence and Community Protection Act or "The Gangbusters Bill" will encourage partnerships across all levels of government to combat the growth of gang activity in our nation.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, there are currently over 25,000 gangs and over 750,000 gang members who are active in more than 3,000 jurisdictions across the United States. Gang activity has been directly linked to the proliferation of illegal drugs, human trafficking, identification document falsification, violent maiming and assault, and the use of firearms to commit deadly shootings. Gang violence and activity is no longer confined to big cities; rather it has spread to suburban and rural areas, such as the Shenandoah Valley, Roanoke and Lynchburg, at a significant rate.
This legislation is part of an increasing federal effort to assist local law enforcement in targeting and federally prosecuting violent criminals who are associated with street gangs. The bill would provide $387 million over five years to create and fund criminal gang enforcement teams to investigate and prosecute criminal street gangs and allow the Attorney General to hire 94 additional Assistant U.S. attorneys to aid in prosecuting these crimes. The Gangbusters Bill would also provide grants to state and local law enforcement to create criminal gang activity databases and train officers to identify gang members and violent offenders.
An increased gang presence has also contributed to the increase of drug production, distribution and trafficking in our area. Methamphetamine, or Meth, is now one of the most frequently investigated drugs in Shenandoah Valley. Investigators estimate that it accounts for about 75 percent of drug cases in Augusta County, and believe that gang members moved more than 9,000 grams of the drug in the area during a two-year period. Similar statistics have been reported in Shenandoah and Rockingham Counties.
Last week, Senator John Warner and I met with United States Attorney John Brownlee and representatives of federal, state and local law enforcement, including representatives from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Northwest Virginia Regional Drug Task Force, the Rockingham County Area R.U.S.H Drug Task Force and the Augusta County Drug Task Force to discuss the influx of Meth trafficking throughout the Shenandoah Valley.
Congress has recognized the growth of gang activity in suburban and rural areas and continues to remain active in fighting the spread of violence and illegal activity. The Gangbusters Bill will give state and local law enforcement offices sufficient resources to meet the increase of gang activity. Protecting our children and our communities from gang violence and illegal drugs is of utmost importance and this bill will help secure that safety.