A group of North Carolina legislators has proposed the state’s first comprehensive plan to prevent, disrupt and punish gang crime, says the Charlotte Observer. Some are concerned about the potential cost — tens or hundreds of millions of dollars as the state is strapped for cash. The law would outlaw participating in or profiting from a gang. It would punish those who threaten people who are trying to leave a gang or threaten those who help them. It would add 10 years prison time for gang leaders and organizers who commit those crimes and it would lengthen sentences for gun crimes when they’re gang-related. The plan would make drive-by shootings a separate felony.
House Co-Speaker Jim Black asked a committee to come up with a plan after a 2003 Observer series on gang violence. Police and prosecutors say they need the new laws because gang organizers seek out states that don’t have specific anti-gang statutes. In 2000, the state found 332 distinct gangs with 5,143 members in more than 50 counties. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have identified about 1,000 gang members and associates and state police say gang membership is growing in both urban and rural areas.