Last week, the Alabama Legislature sent the so-called "criminal enterprises" bill to Gov. Kay Ivey, where it awaits her signature.

The legislation, Senate Bill 143 (SB143), was sponsored by State Sen. Will Barfoot (R-Pike Road), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It provides penalty enhancements for felonies committed to further the interests of any criminal enterprise, attaches a mandatory minimum sentence to the possession or use of a firearm during the commission of certain crimes, and certifies individuals aged 16 and older as adults when charged under the act.

According to State Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle), the former police chief for the cities of Citronelle and Satsuma, the law will be a shot in the arm for law enforcement statewide.

"Extreme important," Stringer said of the bill during an interview with Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5. "I mean, being a cop for 30 years — that's extremely important. Alabama was one of the few states that did not have legislation defining and outlining what a gang member is and relating to that. It's going to help law enforcement address some of your issues in mainly some of these bigger cities like Mobile and around that are having gang and gang-related-type crimes and issues. It is going to be major in helping them. The attorney general's office was a big push in helping this bill. It's going to help them to hopefully address some of those types of issues throughout our state."

The Mobile County lawmaker also discussed the gang problem in Alabama's small town. He cited the rise of MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha 13) in Alabama, which he said he had personally dealt with as a law enforcement officer.

"We're seeing it in some of the rural areas, also," he said. "I know when I was chief of police for the city of Citronelle, you know, we had a guy there that moved in town with MS-13 and was very active in our community there until we were able to make a case on him and send him to prison. They're moving into our rural areas and trying to recruit and develop our gangs in these rural areas. I mean, it is part of the drug cartel and part of the ongoing issue we are seeing with immigration across the country. It all plays in with what's going on across our country and what's going on across Alabama."

Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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