California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today will sign five bills aimed at stemming the tide of gang killings, including the creation of a state office of gang and youth violence policy to oversee the efforts, the Los Angeles Times reports. Other bills to receive the governor’s signature will allow judges to order parents of gang members to attend anti-violence classes, improve protection to witnesses of gang killings, and arm prosecutors with power to evict gang members caught in possession of weapons in apartment buildings used as hangouts.
Schwarzenegger already has appointed former federal prosecutor Paul Seave to serve as a kind of gang czar, heading the office and coordinating various plans of attack against street gangs. “A key component of this anti-gang bill package focuses on the rehabilitation of vulnerable youth who are often coerced through fear and intimidation into joining gangs,” Seave said. Last year’s 14 percent growth in gang violence in Los Angeles sparked much of the legislation. The governor is signing a bill that beefs up witness relocation programs, giving the state attorney general authority to coordinate with and reimburse local agencies that provide protection to those testifying against gang members. The governor signed a bill prohibiting law enforcement and court officials from selling or soliciting for sale any photos or confidential information obtained in the course of their work on celebrities and others. The bill was denounced by media groups as the Mel Gibson and Paris Hilton protection act.