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Bill would help Idaho battle gang activity

Press-Tribune Editorial board
March 23, 2011
Idaho Press-Tribune

Canyon County and the cities of Nampa and Caldwell have made noticeable progress in reducing gang activity. A bill working its way through the Legislature would give law enforcement and prosecutors more weapons to use in the battle against gangs in Idaho.

The progress in the past six years is remarkable. Take Caldwell, for example. In 2004, there were more than 100 drive-by shootings reported. Graffiti was commonplace. In 2010, there was only a single drive-by shooting reported, and graffiti has been reduced considerably.

In 2006, two Canyon County senators - John McGee of Caldwell and Patti Anne Lodge of Nampa - cosponsored the Idaho Criminal Gang Enforcement Act, which tacked two extra years onto the sentence of anyone who committed a felony as part of gang activity, and outlawed the recruiting of and providing guns to gang members.

In its first five years, the law hasn't been used much.

So now, a new gang-crackdown bill sponsored by Rep. Richard Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, has passed the House unanimously and is making progress in the Senate. Wills' bill would do two things - increase the prison time for gang-related crimes from two to five years, and add at least 11 more crimes to the gang enforcement statute (see list).

This bill is an improvement to existing anti-gang law. Increasing the amount of prison time would give prosecutors an incentive to do the extra work, knowing they could keep gang members locked up longer. It would also be an incentive to gang members to behave.

Adding the extra crimes - particularly graffiti and disturbing the peace - is also smart because those are the most prominent, public displays of gang affiliation. And those who rail against illegal immigration will like the addition of human trafficking.

Local law enforcement and prosecutors have made great progress in reducing gang activity. This bill would help them, and it deserves quick passage.

CRIMES HOUSE BILL 235 WOULD ADD TO GANG ENFORCEMENT LAW:

* Sexual abuse of child under 16 * Sexual exploitation of child * Lewd conduct with minor under 16 * Sexual battery of child ages 16 or 17. * Escape or rescue of prisoners * Riot * Disturbing the peace * Malicious injury to property * Damaging jails * Injury by graffiti * Human trafficking

- Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Assistant Managing Editor David Woolsey and community members Tim Vandeventer, Sandi Levi, and Brandon Scholl, all of Nampa; Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community member John Blaisdell of Caldwell, and Alex Zamora of Wilder.


Originally posted at http://www.idahopress.com/opinion/article_07049990-5511-11e0-9bc0-001cc4c002e0.html

The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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