CORPUS CHRISTI — Gang free zones

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  1. TxEMTP69

    TxEMTP69 TGT Addict TGT Supporter

    Feb 17, 2009

    CORPUS CHRISTI — A new law has given authorities more tools to fight gangs, including increasing the penalties for committing gang-related crimes near places like schools, playgrounds and youth centers.
    House Bill 2086, which went into effect Sept. 1, created gang-free zones, which made the punishments stiffer for gang members who commit certain crimes such as engaging in organized criminal activity within 1,000 feet of those locations.
    The Corpus Christi Independent School District already is working on adding information about gang-free zones into its next student handbook, said Carlos Cavazos, the district’s police chief.
    Every public school district is required under the new law to include information about gang-free zones in student handbooks.
    Corpus Christi Police Detective Albert Armendariz, one of the investigators in the Juvenile Enforcement Team/gang unit, said this law is one more welcome resource in an ongoing battle.
    “We need all the help we can get,” he said.
    Under the new law, cities also are able to sue gang members.
    Local officials say if the threat of stiffer penalties isn’t a deterrent, a hit to the pocketbook may be or seizing property from ill-gotten gains.
    “You take away their cars and houses. That’s where you hit them where it hurts,” Armendariz said.
    Prosecutor James Sales, one of two assigned to handle gang cases, learned about the new law at a September seminar. He said he hasn’t yet used the new law but hopes it will help be as effective as laws that created drug-free and gun-free zones.
    “It’s designed to give the public a safe haven,” he said.
    Often gang members look to places like schools for recruiting, which is why the bill makes sense.
    “Anything that increases the (penalty) helps us because there is still a tendency in this community to be lenient to young people,” he said.
    Gang Free Zones
    House Bill 2086 is a law that went into effect Sept. 1. It is meant to give state and law enforcement officials more tools to fight gangs that include electronic monitoring of gang members who have two or more convictions and increased penalties for committing certain crimes in gang free zones.
    Under the new law, the punishment range can be increased if the offense is committed at a location that was:
    in, on or within 1,000 feet of any school, youth center or playground or in, on or within 300 feet of any shopping mall, movie theater, public swimming pool, video arcade or school bus.

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