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CA: Outgunned by Gangs, We Need Feds

Posted Jun 5, 2007 5:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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States are "outmanned, outgunned, and in the midst of a national crisis" of gang violence, as Sen. Dianne Feinstein puts it, requiring federal intervention and federalization of gang-related crimes, according to her and other officials.

In the last six years, 4,000 people have died from gang violence in California alone, far more than in Iraq or in the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the Senate Judiciary Committee today. He called for Congress to pass a bill sponsored by Feinstein, a California Democrat, that would strengthen federal penalties for gang violence and provide $1 billion in federal funding, reports the Los Angeles Times. "[G]ang violence is a problem of national scope, and it must be confronted on a national scale," Villaraigosa says.

The bill, supported by Feinstein for a decade, may not have a smooth path, the paper says, even though a similar version already passed the House of Representatives. It is co-sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says he doesn't believe "sweeping" federalization of street crimes is a good idea, but signalled, with a comment about "adequate resources," that he might be open to increased funding, according to AP.

Nationwide, some 30,000 street gangs, concentrated in L.A. and Chicago, have approximately 800,000 members, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, the AP article continues. At least half of the more than 1,000 murders in both cities reported in 2004 in these two cities were attributed to gangs.

Although overall crime was down, gang-related violence in Los Angeles reportedly increased 15 percent in 2006.

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