WASHINGTON — With street gangs increasingly violent and pervasive in Virginia, Republican Rep. J. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake led colleagues yesterday in declaring “war on gangs.”
Forbes, of the 4th District, used a Capitol news conference to spotlight his new national anti-gang legislation for mandatory minimum federal sentences for gang crimes, hiring new federal prosecutors and setting up “street gang enforcement teams” of local, state and federal law-enforcement officers.
The bill would authorize spending more than $387 million over five years and drew support from Virginia’s seven other House Republicans, including several who deplored increasing gang-related bloodshed, or its threat, in Virginia.
|04/27/05 – Calls from jail described
04/22/05 – ‘Another teardrop has been earned’
04/22/05 – ‘To me, she was a snitch’
04/20/05 – ‘It was like an obsession’
04/19/05 – Gang members who snitch die
04/15/05 – Letters to be key in MS-13 trial
04/14/05 – Crime scene described in MS-13 trial
04/13/05 – MS-13: The History
04/13/05 – Witnesses recount MS-13 victim’s tale
04/12/05 – Gang killing trial begins
04/11/05 – Death penalty sought for N. Va. gangs
- “We have a severe gang-violence problem in Virginia, and it’s rather unprecedented,” said Rep. Eric I. Cantor of the 7th District, noting concerns expressed by law-enforcement officials in Culpeper and Page counties.
- Law-enforcement officials have identified a gang presence in every high school in Fairfax County, said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of the 11th, chairman of the Government Reform Committee.
- In the Shenandoah Valley, the FBI has recognized the existence of at least six gangs, including Mara Salvatrucha, known as MS-13, said Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte of the 6th, chairman of the Agriculture Committee. The street gang is rooted in Central America, and members have been known to decapitate enemies and use grenades and machetes in attacks.
In a sign that the bill may be on a fast track in the House, Forbes said it is tentatively scheduled for a hearing of the House subcommittee on crime April 5. The senior Democrat on that panel is Rep. Robert C. Scott of the 3rd District, who has been skeptical of mandatory minimum sentences.
Forbes’ bill also would establish a legal framework for going after criminal gang enterprises which is similar to the federal law written to prosecute racketeering, its supporters said.
Cantor is married to Diana Cantor, who has been nominated to the board of directors of Media General Inc., parent company of The Times-Dispatch.
Contact Peter Hardin at (202) 662-7669 or [email protected]