August, 18 2018

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Florida Hold Summit on Gangs

Each of Florida's 67 counties has at least one gang member in state prison, but there's no statewide law enforcement strategy to reduce gang activity, state Attorney General Bill McCollum said.

The Gang Reduction Strategy Summit today and Thursday in Tallahassee will help local and state law enforcement agencies, as well as the school systems and programs that work with at-risk youth, come up with a strategy.

A plan likely will be finalized in February or March.

Without a plan, McCollum said, gang activity will worsen and become a bigger threat to Floridians.

"It's crucial for us to act," he told the Tribune today. "The gang thing is blowing up."

Florida has identified about 1,500 gangs and 70,000 to 80,000 gang members within the state, McCollum said. There are about 4,400 gang members in the state's prison system.

Florida's Gang Problem

Florida has had more gang activity growth during a 25-year stretch than any other state, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Many Florida gangs traffic illegal drugs, are involved with guns and commit violent crimes, McCollum said.

A strategy to reduce gangs will come from the state level but will be implemented at the local level.

"What's going to happen if we get this going is, instead of being popular by joining gangs, gangs are going to be not that cool anymore, not the thing to do," McCollum said. "We need to reduce the growth of these gangs. We need to dismantle some of their leadership and cripple the recruiting. We don't know exactly how to do that. That's why these meetings are going on today."

About 100 people attended today's summit, including community activists and law enforcement agents.

McCollum started the summit by telling attendees the importance of working together. He stressed the need for input from local agencies.

Strategies Discussed at The Summit

"Stopping gang activity is a collaborative effort," state Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey says in a news release from the attorney general's office. "We've laid the foundation, and we're already starting to see focused, cooperative and highly effective initiatives."

The summit will include discussion groups on these topics: intervention; gang suppression and deterrence; prosecution and criminal justice enhancements; rehabilitation and re-entry; risk-based prevention; and community resources, infrastructure and implementation.

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary James McDonough said the summit makes sense.

"We will disperse all gang members we receive in our prisons, deny them a base of operations or any chance to network, and take disciplinary action whenever any of them seek to continue gang-like behavior," he says in a written statement from the attorney general's office.

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