The Community Safety Act, which aims to curb gang crime, has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as the General Assembly acted on several major law and order bills this week. Senate Bill 1634 would clarify that a petition for the abatement of gang-related conduct may be filed against a criminal gang itself to which the members belong. The court would have the authority to restrict gang activity in certain geographic locations.
Gang-related offenses include crimes that Tennessee communities combat every day, such as robbery, carjacking, and drug possession with intent to sell, among other more violent offenses. This year’s legislation builds on a law passed in 2013 that changed the definition of “criminal gang offense” from a vague and broad definition to a specific list of offenses to make it easier for prosecutors to seek a greater sentence. Other laws enacted since 2011 create tougher sentences for certain types of crimes committed by three or more acting in concert and tougher sentences for convicted felons who persist in illegally possessing guns.
Gang-related crimes are of increasing concern across Tennessee, in the state’s rural and urban communities. This bill builds on legislation already passed by the General Assembly to provide an effective tool to communities plagued with violent gang activity.
The bill would require gang-related conduct to be proven beyond clear and convincing evidence. It includes an opt-out provision that would allow a gang member to be dismissed from an injunction if he or she renounced membership. The proposal would also make it a Class C misdemeanor for a gang member to knowingly violate any temporary or permanent injunction.