Gang presence has been increasing in communities across the country. In Florida, gangs have been successful in attracting young members to join. Communities and law enforcement have been working hard to focus their effort on deterring gang membership and gang violence. These efforts have to be extremely concentrated in order to stifle the growing gang presence.
The Latin Kings were recently reported to be the largest gang in Florida. This gang has roots originally in Chicago, but made its way to Florida in the 1990s. This gang has a structured leadership system and a manifesto that members are required to study. Within the Florida prison system alone, the Latin Kings are numbered to have over 1,000 members. While this may not seem like a large group, it outshines the number of members from other gangs within the prison system. Additionally, the Latin Kings have a large presence in the United States – an astonishing 35,000 members. This is just one gang and there are many more gangs on our streets.
Florida’s Plan of Attack
As a response to these statistics, Florida has taken a harsh stance on criminal gang enforcement and prevention in order to ensure that individuals are protected from fear, intimidation and physical harm caused by gangs. The Florida legislature has passed a bill allowing for enhanced penalties on any offense that is aimed at benefiting, promoting, or furthering the interests of a gang. The enhancement allows a misdemeanor of the second degree to be punished as if it were of the first degree. Misdemeanors of the first degree are charged as felonies of the third degree. Any felony will be upgraded to a felony of one degree higher.
Taking it one step further, the Florida legislature also makes it a felony to cause, encourage, solicit, or recruit anyone to a criminal gang. Additionally, any profits, proceeds, and instrumentalities of criminal gang activities and all property used or intended to be used to facilitate criminal gang activity is subject to seizure under the Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act. While the actual property that is associated with gangs will be seized, the individual who is organizing, planning, managing, and directing the gang activity that is associated with the property will be changed with a first degree felony.
While the legislature has enacted laws to help deter gang activity, law enforcement has developed gang units to help combat gang presence on the streets. In one county, the local gang unit monitors 1,200 members of gangs who have ties to 72 different street gangs.
All of these efforts are working together to attack this problem from different angles. In 2012, the Attorney General’s Gang Reduction Report found that there were about 40,000 people who were members of or affiliated with gangs in Florida. In 2013, there was a reduction in this number, as the study found a total of 33,000 people involved with gangs, which is a 17 percent reduction. Of course, there is still a lot of work left to be done.
If you have been charged with a gang-related crime, you are facing serious criminal charges. Don’t hesitate to contact Mark S. Lowry, an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal law attorney. For the best possible legal representation, contact his office today.