Since President Donald Trump has taken office, he and key members of his administration have commendably announced combatting criminal street gangs as a major priority. This dynamic clearly distinguishes them from their detractors, many of whom have shown a persistent refusal to acknowledge—much less contend with—the escalating magnitude of gang crime and violence.
Channeling the Trump Administration’s worthy commitment to defeating gangs into a specific policy initiative has a clear starting point, namely: passage of a national gang prosecution act. Advocating in favor of a federal anti-gang law would serve a host of significant interests– first and foremost public safety and national security.
Most Americans would be stunned to discover that federal statistics as far back as 2011 estimated gang membership in America as well over one million, characterized gang numbers as alarmingly increasing, and identified gangs as responsible for up to 90 percent of violent crime in far too many jurisdictions. That shock would likely evolve into outrage if those same citizens then learned that, despite this, federal law contains no provision specifically tailored to prosecute adults for gang crimes.
The need for Congressional passage of a federal gang prosecution law, spearheaded by the White House, is undisputable. Distinctly placing the burden on the United States government to eradicate their menace, gangs do not recognize local, state, or international boundaries when they victimize. Defying jurisdictional limitations, a host of these hyper-violent, unlawful organizations sport tens of thousands of adherents in their criminal membership ranks who, in turn, abuse and terrorize thousands more, regardless of address. Many of these gangs are transnational, recruiting and deploying gangsters from and to different countries as they spread their malicious mayhem.
A national gang prosecution act would also create systemic unity of purpose and accountability. To an array of audiences, these authors have emphasized that the proper evaluation of law enforcement anti-gang initiatives requires an assessment of three crucial factors:
1. The number of anti-gang act warrants issued in the jurisdiction;
2. The number of anti-gang act indictments returned in the jurisdiction; and
3. The number of anti-gang act sentences imposed in the jurisdiction.
Disastrously, if posed to the United States government, the answer to all three inquires would be, “None.” This is because federal law houses no national gang prosecution law for adult offenders. Compounding that calamity, there appears to be a dearth of political pressure to create one.
The deafening silence from the Fourth Estate on America’s gang crisis is an open and notorious act of systemic dereliction that epitomizes the term “Fake News.” While scores of gang members victimize Americans daily, there is no call from the Mainstream Media for passage of a federal law to protect the populace from that same danger. Policy makers are rarely—if ever—confronted with how they plan to protect America from the ever-increasing threat of gang crime.
Seizing on this opportunity by proposing a federal gang prosecution law could prove historic for the Trump Administration. Doing so would focus its admirable anti-gang orations into concrete legislation. Such a needed, common-sense set of laws would likely gain bipartisan support.
Furthermore, critics would be immediately exposed. Their callous indifference to gang-crime victims and the devastation gangs continue to bring to communities across the nation would be evident in any opposition to such a law. That disregard could be easily juxtaposed to the Trump Administration’s decisive and innovative response to an identifiable and snowballing criminal threat.
A federal gang prosecution law would create an unmistakable and enforceable protective barrier between gangs and law-abiding citizens. In other words—a wall. A wall that can and should be built, posthaste.
President Trump is a renowned builder. Construction should begin on passage of a national gang prosecution law, with purpose, alacrity and without delay.
Vic Reynolds is the District Attorney for Cobb County. Michael Scott Carlson serves as one of his Deputy Chief Assistant District Attorneys. Each participated in legislative efforts to improve Georgia’s anti-gang laws. In 2016, both were honored by the Georgia Gang Investigators Association for their dedication to combatting gang crime in the Peach State.