New gang crime bill in Durham

July 16, 2008 7:35:38 PM PDT
A new gang crime bill that spells out the meaning of gang activity and gang crimes is very likely to send more people to prison.

A local minister says the bill is too vague and believes innocent children will be mistaken for gang members.

As graffiti creeps onto wall, the state counts 14,000 gang members across North Carolina.

Lawmakers finally passed laws to get tough on gangs.

"We have prevention, intervention, and suppression," Durham Minister Paul Scott said.

He said not everyone should feel safer.

"I see a lot of Black [and] Latino males in prison," Scott said.

Scott calls himself a street minister who preaches to children not in a church, but on the street where he finds at-risk youth.

"Anybody could be a gang member who has their pants sagging or has on a bandana," Scott said. "Many times these children are not gang members. They're just copying what they see on BET, MTV, and the rest of the hip-hop shows."

The Street Gang Suppression Act would create a series of new crimes, specifically making it illegal to organize a gang, to encourage a minor, to join a gang and to retaliate against someone for quitting a gang.

Scott said his fear is simply police wrongly identifying a member of a gang.

"I see a lot of hip-hop profiling happening in the very near future," Scott said. "I see young people who are dressed like their favorite rapper, whether it be Lil' Wayne or 50 Cent, being targeted as gang members when they aren't gang members at all. They're just dressed like a certain hip-hop style."

Representative Mickey Micheaux of Durham said the innocent have nothing to fear.

"Certainly any group of people standing around could be considered a gang," Mickey Micheaux said. "But what is their intent? What are they actively involved in. Anybody who is not involved in any criminal activity doesn't have a thing to fear."

Lawmakers have also committed $10 million to gang prevention programs for children.

The new law is also expected to cost another $30 million the first year for additional prison space.

"If this was truly about gangs, why would you have more money allotted for prisons?" Scott asked.


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