Gov. Bill Haslam signed major anti-crime legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) on Wednesday to make it easier to prosecute criminal gang activity in Tennessee.
The legislation builds on a series of laws sponsored by Norris over the past several years to curb gun-related violence and focus resources on keeping violent criminals in prison longer to protect the public.
"Last year we enacted legislation that set the stage for increasing penalties for criminal gang activity," said Leader Norris. "What we did this year was come back and make the law clearer as to what crimes constitute gang activity to give prosecutors new tools in the fight against gang violence."
The new law rewrites and simplifies the state's Criminal Gang Enhancement statute citing 26 offenses that if committed in connection with gang activity allow the perpetrator to be charged one classification higher than the original offense. These offenses include murder, assault, robbery, kidnapping, rape, carjacking, coercion, drug crimes and retaliation. Current law requires criminal gang offenses committed by a gang member must be punished one classification higher unless the offender is a leader or organizer of the gang, which bumps up penalties by two classifications.
"As a former Shelby County Commissioner, I understand the issues the city of Memphis and Shelby County face with gang crime," added Norris. "Gang-related crime has far reaching effects on our communities. We must work together to address this problem. I am very pleased the Governor has signed this legislation into law. It should make a big difference in combating violent crime."
The bill takes effect on July 1.
Senator Norris serves as Senate Majority Leader and represents District 32, which includes Tipton and part of Shelby County.