New Alabama gang prevention law a ‘game-changer,’ police say

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — A new law in Alabama aims to crack down on Alabama gang activity.

Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine says he hopes this will decrease crime in Mobile.

“My hope is that once we start making a few arrests and getting some convictions on these types of crimes, that will resonate among the community — and then I think you will then see that the crime will exponentially continue to trend down,” Prine said.

According to this law, a person could be identified and charged as a gang member if they meet three out of the 10 qualifications listed below:

  1. Admits to criminal enterprise membership.
  2. Is voluntarily identified as a criminal enterprise member by a parent or guardian.
  3. Is identified as a criminal enterprise member by a reliable informant.
  4. Adopts the style of dress of a criminal enterprise.
  5. Adopts the use of a hand sign identified as used by a criminal enterprise.
  6. Has a tattoo identified as used by a criminal enterprise.
  7. Associated with one or more known criminal enterprises.
  8. Is identified as a criminal enterprise member by physical evidence.
  9. Has been observed in the company of one or more known criminal enterprise members four or more times.
  10. Has authored any communication indicating responsibility for committing any crime by a criminal enterprise.

“When I tell you the game has changed for any criminal enterprise operating in the city of Mobile,” Prine said, “that game has changed. And it’s important that the youth in our community understand that because if they’re convicted, they’re going to be sitting in jail for a very long time.”

Prior to this law, prison time for a class A crime would start at 10 years. Now, an offender who meets three out of the 10 criteria and is guilty of a class A crime is sentenced to a minimum of 25 years.

Enhancements also include firearm charges.

“There’s an enhancement of carrying a firearm in the course of one of these organized crimes, there’s an enhancement of brandishing a firearm, an enhancement of firing a firearm, and then there are sentencing enhancements for certain types of firearms,” District Attorney Keith Blackwood said.

Those firearms include Glock switches, which make semi-automatic guns fully automatic. An offender having one in their possession would receive an automatic sentence for 30 years.

“We’ve had some issues with these retaliatory shootings where there has been gang activity, and this is very important for the young people in our community to know that the game has changed,” Prine said.

In the city of Mobile, most gang members fall between the ages of 15 and 25. Now, anyone 16 years and older will be tried as an adult for gang-related crimes.

“Those will automatically go to adult court and those people from 16 and on will not be prosecuted at Strickland Youth Center but will be prosecuted here at the courthouse,” Blackwood said.

Prine says that he thinks this new law will have long-term impacts and will decrease Mobile crime.

“Crime going down creates a quality of life that all mobilians want to enjoy and this is going to help serve as a deterrent for those types of criminal activity,” Prine said.

This law went into effect September 1.


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