RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina’s nearly decade-old law designed to punish and deter gang crimes and violence would be rewritten with new crimes and new definitions of gang activity in legislation that cleared a House committee on Tuesday.
Prosecutors and a law enforcement group backed the legislation they say is needed because it’s difficult to prosecute gang members under a 2008 state law. The definitions of criminal gangs and gang activity also aren’t specific enough, speakers before the judicial panel said.
These shortcomings have contributed to a low number of gang-crime convictions. Data presented to a legislative subcommittee last year showed 50 specific charges related to patterns of gang activity filed statewide in 2015, but no convictions.
“I can tell you that it’s not being used now,” said Pitt County District Attorney Kimberly Robb, estimating that 75 percent of the violent crime in her county is drug-related. “Anything that we can do to strengthen laws to help us eradicate the problem and help us control the problem is important.”
The 2008 law provides for separate felony counts for people who participate in a pattern of criminal gang activity or who are gang leaders or supervisors in that activity.