Organized gangs are on the rise in Chesterfield and Colonial Heights, as is the violence and the havoc they wreak. I appreciate the work that our Chesterfield and Colonial Heights Police Forces are doing to combat this menace. However, the problem exists around the entire Commonwealth.
There are currently twenty regional gang task forces operating in Virginia. These task forces are responsible for identifying, infiltrating, and disrupting gangs, in addition to assisting prosecutors in their efforts to prosecute criminals who are involved in gang activities. We need to increase state funding for these task forces. By doing so, we can enhance their ability to reduce gang violence.
These gangs are recruiting new members at very early ages. The key to suppressing gang activity is reducing their ability to recruit new members. We have to develop programs in our communities that divert young people away from these gangs. Such a program would identify those who are most at risk and provide them with more positive options.
Cocaine is still the drug of choice in Virginia; however, Methamphetamine is quickly becoming the drug of choice in many parts of rural Virginia. Gangs are making money cooking and selling methamphetamine to our children, yet the penalties for the manufacture, distribution and use of cocaine remain more serious than the penalties for the manufacturer, distribution and use of methamphetamine. We should increase the penalties for the manufacture, possession and use of methamphetamine to match the penalties currently in place for cocaine.
Child pornography is a serious problem, and many sexual predators are using the Internet to make contact with their victims. To combat this problem, law enforcement agencies have established a number of Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces. These task forces focus on identifying and prosecuting individuals who disseminate child pornography, and they monitor Internet chat rooms looking for sexual predators who are trying to take advantage of unsuspecting young people. We should expand their activities and, in so doing, allow them to do an even better job attacking the problem of child pornography and Internet sexual predators.
Astoundingly, here in Virginia, the “triggerman rule” would keep us from being able to place Charles Manson on death row. In the recent “sniper” case, we were unable to convict John Lee Malvo of a capital offense. Even though he organized and planned the murders, he was not the man who pulled the trigger. In past sessions, the General Assembly passed legislation to fix this problem; however, the Governor vetoed it. I look forward to going back and fighting to get this matter finally resolved.
It is clear that we have many inmates in our jails and prisons with mental health and substance abuse problems. While we have them in confinement, as wards of the state, we should do what we can to lessen the prospects that they might return back into our communities after causing additional harm to others. Henrico County has a program of isolation and treatment that has been working for some years now. By letter, I have encouraged Sheriffs across the state to emulate their program. Some have done so. In coming sessions, we will see what kind of additional funding support the state can provide for professional staffing of these local jail programs.