Moore lawmaker proposes gang bill

Tuesday, July 15th 2008, 6:49 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

MOORE, Okla. -- Police are always receptive to new weapons to combat crime, and a Moore lawmaker wants to give them more tools to fight gangs.

When you see areas in the metro tagged with graffiti, it's a reminder that the problem of organized gangs exists right here at home. Police have to deal with it almost every day.

"Those are kind of a good barometer of what's going on with gang activity in the city, because that's an activity that is directly attributable to gang involvement," Oklahoma City police Sgt. Gary Knight said.

Representative Paul Wesselhoft plans to introduce a bill to give police greater leverage against gangs.

"It will be a misdemeanor charge if you are a member of a gang, so the police can arrest you on site once they identify you and you can be arrested," Wesselhoft said.

Wesselhoft said most gang members are known to police, and are easy to identify by clothing and their tattoos.

"It's not uncommon, certainly not uncommon, to have tattoos identifying yourself as a gang member, or more than that, identifying which gang set you belong to," Knight said.

Some will worry that arrests to break up gatherings will violate civil liberties. Wesselhoft has researched that too.

"The First Amendment right of assembly does not pertain to organized gangs if they have a demonstrated pattern of criminal or juvenile activity," Wesselhoft said.

So far Wesselhoft has not found a Senate sponsor for the bill.