ATLANTA, Ga. (WTOC) - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is looking to continue his push to prioritize the fight against gang violence in the state.
The Governor spoke about strengthening the Gang Task Force at the recent State of the State Address, and Thursday revealed some new legislation that would help their efforts.
While here in the Capitol for Savannah-Chatham Day, we had a chance to listen in on a news conference in Governor Brian Kemp’s office. It focused on two pieces of legislation he’s introducing this session that he hopes gives law enforcement tools in the tool box to tackle gang violence in the state.
Kemp acknowledged the existing Street Gang Act is already a pretty tough law that helps law enforcement crack down on gangs. The piece of legislation Governor Kemp announced Thursday, the Nicholas Sheffey Act, is named after a man gunned down in a drive-by shooting, an act of gang violence according to Governor Kemp.
“We will add more teeth to the law. We will send a clear message to those who want to prey upon our families, our communities and our young people that their actions will have big consequences," said Kemp.
The new act, if it becomes law, would add murder committed in violation of the Street Gang Act as a qualifier for the death penalty. One of the other features would also allow prosecutors to seize any real property that is used by a criminal street gang, or anyone who violates the Street Gang Act. Rep.
“We have a problem," said Rep. Carl Gilliard, District 162. "We have 71,000 identified gang members, 1,400 in Chatham County. So we’ve got to find a balance of, I’m on the preventative end, but we also can’t let those that commit crimes that have no respect for life do what they’re doing.”
Governor Kemp outlined a second piece of legislation that includes creating a legal division of the GBI - special prosecutors that, when requested, could assist in gang cases.
“If you’re in a small rural county, and you don’t have the ability to have a prosecutor that really knows how to prosecute gang trials, that they have somebody that does that on a regular basis, to move in and assist you,” said Rep. Bill Hitchens, District 161.
Again, Governor Kemp is looking to introduce the legislation in the coming days, and asked for support.