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Criminal Prosecutors Push for Tougher Gang Laws

By Kamika Dunlap on March 09, 2010 12:15 PM

Criminal prosecutors in Maryland are trying to crack down on growing gang violence.

To do that, they say it will take tougher anti-gang laws.

Currently, a slew of new gang-related bills are being considered by lawmakers to help better identify, track and prosecute known gang members.

According to the Washington Examiner, the current statute is hard to use because of its ambiguous language and tougher anti-gang laws would help prosecutors and police spell out who is a gang member.

Under current law, nearly every jurisdiction has a different definition for gang members, making census counts and data-sharing nearly impossible.

Revisions to the 2007 Maryland Gang Prosecution Act would close loopholes. Since the law was enacted there have been no gang-related prosecutions at the state level.

Police and prosecutors say changes would strengthen the law by defining "criminal gangs" and "criminal gang members," to broaden the types of crime considered gang activity.

Another new piece of the legislation is a measure that would allow police and school officials in Maryland to share information about gang activity.

In 2004, lawmakers in Virginia addressed cross-border gang activity with a law allowing the attorney general's office to establish multijurisdictional grand juries.

Some of the proposed revision of the existing gang prevention act that would define a member as someone who fits at least two of these categories:

  • You proclaim yourself a member.
  • You use a gang's name, sign or symbol.
  • You associate with other known gang members and demonstrate aspiration to become a member by adopting style of dress, tattoos or hand signals or participate in gang activities.
  • The prison system has determined you are a gang member.
  • Photos or electronic communication provide evidence of your gang membership.

Some public defenders however are opposing new anti-gang legislation, which they say would fill already crowded state prison.

Today, there are an estimated 600 gangs and 9,000 gang members in Maryland.

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