MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — A new law aiming to crack down on gang activity is now in effect in Alabama.
SB143 passed this legislative session and was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in June.
The law enhances penalties for any criminal activity that furthers the interest of a criminal enterprise or a gang. It specifically targets crimes using firearms, creating five-year mandatory minimum prison sentences for gang activity involving guns.
“We are not talking about petty crimes here,” Rep. Allen Treadaway (R-Birmingham) said. “We’re talking about serious crimes using firearms.”
Treadaway sponsored the House version of the bill. He said the goal is to improve public safety.
“Sends a strong message to those individuals that are involved in this type of gang activity that serious consequences are coming your way,” Treadaway said.
The law also lists several characteristics of someone who might be in a gang, including style of dress, hand signs, tattoos and more. If a person meets at least three of those criteria, he or she could be considered a gang member and subjected to the harsher penalties.
Law enforcement leaders said this legislation is something they’ve been asking for.
“It’s going to give another tool for law enforcement to use to get the criminal element off the street,” said Alabama Fraternal Order of Police President Everette Johnson.
Johnson said while gang activity might be most known to occur in big cities, it’s widespread.
“Gang activity is all over the state, even in your small towns,” Johnson said. “You can have a collection of organized people that want to cause harm and violate the law. It’s a problem anywhere you go,”
The law also requires someone 16 or older to be tried as an adult for gang-related crimes.