TOPEKA - (January 3, 2013) - Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt will recommend the 2013 Kansas legislature enact a new anti-racketeering statute to combat criminal street gangs.
"For criminal street gangs, the whole of their criminal activity in our communities is sometimes greater than the sum of the parts," Schmidt said. "A state-level racketeering statute will give law enforcement and prosecutors a more effective tool to bring gang leaders to justice."
Last year, Schmidt announced a statewide anti-gang initiative called Gang Free Kansas. As part of that initiative, an advisory group of law enforcement officers has made recommendations to the attorney general for changes in state law that would strengthen their ability to prosecute gang members who commit crimes. Enactment of an anti-racketeering statute is their top recommendation.
The proposed anti-racketeering legislation is modeled on the federal anti-racketeering statute, which originally was enacted to combat organized crime but has been effectively used against criminal street gangs. The idea of the law is to allow prosecution for engaging in a pattern of criminal activity rather than only prosecution of individual criminal acts.
The Wichita Police Department has advocated the legislature enact a similar law for several years. However, the broad sweep of that proposed statute has slowed its progress. Schmidt said he has worked closely with supporters of the previous bill to narrow the new proposal in a way that should increase its chances of passage.
Schmidt will also propose changes to the Criminal Gang Member Statute which will update existing anti-gang law in Kansas. He said he will ask the legislature to introduce the measures soon after it reconvenes.
More information about Gang Free Kansas is available at www.gangfreekansas.org.