BIRMINGHAM — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is working with local law enforcement to familiarize them with the state’s new anti-gang law, which enhances penalties for those involved in a criminal enterprise.
In June, Gov. Kay Ivey signed the law, initially proposed by State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), and it went into effect on September 1. The bill’s text initially used the word “gang,” but it was later removed in favor of “criminal enterprise” at the behest of Senate Democrats.
Some municipalities in Alabama have some of the worst violent crime rates per capita in the United States. Birmingham alone had over 140 homicides last year.
On Wednesday, Marshall spoke to the Jefferson County Mayor’s Association about the new law at the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.
“[The bill] basically says a couple things,” Marshall said. “Number one, we’re going to define what a criminal enterprise is, which is basically three or more people coming together to do bad things. If you commit a crime for the purposes of that - a criminal enterprise - we’re going to elevate your punishment. Class C becomes a B. B becomes an A. A becomes even more elevated. We say if you’re a gang member, meaning a crime for the purpose of that gang, and you do it with a gun, we’re going to give you certain mandatory minimums you have to serve.”
“When I see stories about shootings in the UAB emergency room, know it is connected to gang activity, there is a need for this bill,” he said later in his speech. “There is an opportunity for us to make a difference, and I think you’re going to see very positive results as we move along.”
Marshall said he met with Birmingham Police Department officers that morning to train them on the new law. After speaking to the association, he told 1819 News that he would be meeting with other police departments around the state in the coming weeks.
“I think right now we’re very much in the training phase,” Marshall explained. “There are thresholds the bill established about how you prove somebody is in the criminal enterprise, so we’re making sure law enforcement knows what they have is a matter of proof and, ultimately, what it is it’s going to take to make the connection between the work of that group and the more specific crime itself.”
“Everybody’s really pleased,” he added. “Again, in a legislature that’s very divided, and we get all but four votes, it’s a reflection that there is a great need, and when you hear mayors of larger cities transparently talking about that being a driver, I think this is going to save lives, and it makes communities safer.”
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