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Anti-gang bill advances in Legislature

March 12, 2009

Anti-gang bill advances in Legislature

LINCOLN – State senators gave first-round approval Wednesday to an anti-gang bill despite concerns about increased costs for longer prison stays and for setting up gang-prevention programs. 

Legislative Bill 63 is a combination of proposals that would toughen penalties for gang-related crimes, create new offenses for graffiti vandals and set up a state office to help communities such as Omaha set up gang-violence prevention programs.

State Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha said prevention programs such as those employed in Chicago, Boston and Cincinnati could cut in half gang-related shootings in Omaha and eventually prevent people from going to prison.

Ashford estimated that setting up an Office of Violence Prevention within the State Crime Commission would cost $445,000 a year. That office would seek grants and “best practices” to help communities set up their programs.

Louisville Sen. Dave Pankonin, however, warned that the costs could be much higher since violent offenders will be in prisons longer. That annual cost was estimated at $26,000 per inmate by Ashford.

Omaha Sen. Mike Friend, the main sponsor of LB 63, said “protecting people from people they are afraid of” should be a top spending priority.

Ashford said some of the cost of the prevention programs could be initially paid for with federal stimulus funds.

State Sen. Brenda Council, the sister of former Omaha Police Chief Tom Warren, was the lone “no” in the 44-1 vote in advancing LB 63 from first-round debate.

Council said that while she supports the prevention measures, she doesn’t believe that tougher penalties would deter gang crimes.

“Consequences mean absolutely nothing to people who have no hope,” she said. “What we ought to be addressing is restoring hope to the people who turn to gangs.”

Ashford, who led a study of gang violence last year, has said that LB 63 represents the first time that crime prevention has been recognized as part of the solution to gang violence.

One Comment leave one →
  1. donfather permalink
    March 13, 2009 2:39 pm

    i heard baron davis has a documentary about gang violence that will answer all your questions

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