Gang Violence in Mississippi is increasing and new legislation could help investigators and prosecutors get gang members off the streets. Tony Lawrence, District Attorney for Jackson, George and Greene Counties says he started to realize the limitations of the current law several years ago.
“Their playbook is almost like what you saw the mafia, in their hay-day, do,” said DA Tony Lawrence. “They get legitimate businesses and they run the criminal proceeds through those businesses.”
Lawrence added that gangs are recruiting members and younger and younger ages. New legislation would help officers and prosecutors shut down gangs like the Simon City Royals, the Gangster Disciples, and the Vice Lords. Gangs which have origins going back to Chicago, Illinois. Currently, all 82 counties in Mississippi have a gang presence from one or more of these gangs.
Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate that will help with ending gang activity in the state. Senator Brice Wiggins introduced SB 2868 this year, and Representative Andy Gipson introduced HB 541. The anti-gang bill submitted to the House was a group effort between various state agencies, District Attorney’s, and Representative Andy Gips. If passed, the bill would create a new set of crimes.
“Any felony crimes committed by a gang, they are going to get enhanced penalties, they are going to get added jail time, it is going to be classified as a violent crime and they are going to spend 50%, at a minimum, of their time in prison,” said Representative Andy Gipson, author of the anti-gang bill, HB 541. “We want to send a message that we are taking this seriously.
“They get the young kids to go into the house, because they know that if the young kid gets caught they are going to youth court,” Lawrence said.
Both the House and the Senate have passed anti-gang bills out of committee and they will soon be heading to their respective chamber floors.