City proposes new statewide anti-gang legislation - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City proposes new statewide anti-gang legislation

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB)- Chattanooga's violent gang problem now goes statewide as local leaders press for legislation, in Nashville.

Monday afternoon the mayor said the solution to gangs, is tougher laws at the state level. He introduced new legislation targeted at getting more gang members off the street.

"If people came here today, if media or whoever, came here today expecting to hear a magic solution, there is no magic solution," says Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

But Mayor Littlefield says he is going to keep working to find the best solution to stopping gang activity in Chattanooga.

With members of CAGE by his side, they sent a strong message to current gang members.

"They will die in prison if they decide to continue committing crimes as gangs. That's the reality in Chattanooga right now," says Boyd Patterson, Chattanooga Gang Task Force Coordinator.

On top of focusing on local outreach programs and increased law enforcement, the mayor's office is now pushing for new anti-gang legislation with the backing of U.S. Attorney Bill Killian.

"We will vigorously prosecute these cases and provide for a substantial number of years upon conviction," says Killian.

The first proposal? Making changes to Tennessee's 'RICO Act,' which targets racketeering and corrupt organizations.

CAGE says including gangs in the act will allow for group prosecutions, essentially wiping out gang members by the dozens.

The second proposal is tacking on an additional felony charge for gang members who commit felonies, which will keep them behind bars longer.

Littlefield says the main challenge is convincing the state to pay for it, and for the city to spend money on programs to keep people out of gangs in the first place.

"There is a cost of not doing it. Which they really don't want to recognize," says Littlefield.

He says the Christmas Day shootings alone cost the city around half a million dollars in resources.

He says the new laws, coupled with local outreach will help.

"If we had put that half a million dollars into summer youth programs and summer job programs, I think that would have been a far more effective use of the money," says Littlefield.

When asked how this initiative is different from past attempts, Littlefield says this time the city's taking a more "scientific approach."

He says the new CAGE effort is modeled after national programs with proven track records.

He hopes this increased cooperation at the city and state level is part of the answer.

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