Bill in legislature would toughen penalties for gang-related crimes

Gang violence is a problem almost everywhere, even in West Alabama. Now, Alabama legislators are working toward passing a bill they say will help cut down on gang-related crimes.

This bill, HB191 sponsored by state Rep. Allen Treadaway, is being backed by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

If it’s passed, the bill would require longer jail sentences for crimes associated with gang activity. For example, a person convicted of a gang-related Class-A felony would serve a minimum of 25 years in prison.

It would also require anyone 16 or older be prosecuted as an adult if their charges are gang related.

Hale County Sheriff Michael Hamilton said cutting down on gang-related violence and crime should be a top priority for legislators.

“Most of the things we are dealing with now are gang-related crimes,” Hamilton said.

Gangs often recruit young people who live in rural areas like Hale County, Hamilton said, and promise them material riches they’ve only dreamed of. They’re easy to join but hard to leave, and once you’re in odds are good you’ll be committing crimes.

“We do have a hybrid gang problem,” Hamilton said. “Gangs that form off of other gangs. A lot of (gang members) are juveniles. We have to do something with juvenile laws where we can get something done with these kids who are running around committing these heinous crimes.”

Commit a crime? Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ron Abernathy said it’s only fair that you do the time.

“The key thing is for these individuals who are associated with a gang to know is that if you commit a crime, you are going to be in for severe consequences,” Abernathy said.

Sheriffs around West Alabama WVUA 23 News spoke with said they are in full support of the proposed bill.

“It is a pretty good piece of legislation if we can get it passed,” Hamilton said.

Abernathy agreed.

“That is what we have to have,” said Abernathy. “We have to keep criminals off the streets. We can’t let them go down and be turned loose again. And this will absolutely help us accomplish that mission.”

Categories: Crime, Featured, Local News