ATLANTA, Ga. – Georgia lawmakers are cracking down on gangs and gang violence.
This week Gov. Brian Kemp backed a bill that will make prison sentences harsher for gang-related crimes.
No city is immune to gang violence or crime. It can happen anywhere. It’s even plaguing communities in Brunswick, Georgia, and is a top priority for the Glynn County Police Department.
“Most of our shootings or our vehicle deaths or grand-theft autos are stemming from gang activity,” said Capt. Shawn Strohl of the Glynn County Police Department.
State lawmakers are pushing for harsher gang sentences in the Peach State under Senate Bill 44, which states anyone convicted under Georgia’s sweeping anti-gang law must serve at least five years in state prison on top of any other sentence.
Anyone convicted of recruiting minors into a gang gets 10 additional years with no possibility of probation or parole. Judges have a restricted ability to reduce sentences. Also, prosecutors can appeal leniency for lesser charges.
Strohl said if it passes it would improve how police crack down on gang violence.
“It’s holding attorneys more accountable for fulfilling these charges that they should be charged with,” said Strohl.
Some critics disagree with the measure, saying Georgia laws already have harsh penalties and that there’s no guarantee that this will stop criminals. Critics also argue that the 10-year penalty for recruitment could target 17- and 18-year-olds and younger teens.
In a 6 to 3 vote, the bill passed the Senate Judiciary committee. Now it moves to the Senate for more discussion.