Problems of Gang-related Criminal Behavior

A number of state legislatures have developed new strategies for addressing the problems of gang-related criminal behavior. Legislative bodies have both enhanced traditional criminal laws and drafted new legislation aimed specifically at alleviating the gang problem. One of the most comprehensive approaches originated in California where the first statute aimed exclusively at prohibiting the activities of criminal street gangs was enacted. The California Street Terrorism and Enforcement Prevention (STEP) Act’s primary focus was to make it a criminal offense to engage in criminal gang activity. A multitude of other states quickly followed suit and passed similar legislation. Discuss some of the collateral damage that comes with the implementation of legislation like the STEP Act. For example, does legislation like this come with the potential for misuse? When exploring the STEP Act further, do you believe the law can be misinterpreted and used to fuel the storm of moral panic touted by elected officials that gangs pose a threat to our communities? Use the two documents posted in Module Six to guide the development of your response.

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