Gang violence is increasing in Mississippi and it’s reaching all 82 counties in the state. A new report on State gang threat assessment which was commissioned by the Governor shows that all 82 counties in Mississippi have a gang presence.
Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher said that the top three gangs in the state are the Gangers Disciples, the Simon City Royals, and the Vice Lords which all originated in Chicago.
“There are a lot of different subsets of these people, there are a lot of different identified gangs out there,” said Fisher. They are into property crimes, drug crimes, murder for hire, of course along with some of the other things, they are involved in sex crimes, human trafficking, prostitution, you name it. Anything to make a buck.”
Fisher added that a lot of the violence that is happening in the state is a result of gang activity. However, Fisher said that many people in law enforcement who are in denial as to gangs being prevalent in the state.
“The gangs didn’t just start five years ago, they didn’t just start 10 years ago,” Fisher said.
Reports show that the formation of neighborhood cliques and hybrid gangs contributes to the large variation of gang subsets within the state. The Mississippi Department of Corrections identified 38 additional gangs validated within their facilities and law enforcement identified 43 additional gangs as most prevalent within their jurisdictions.
However, Fisher said that while there are gangs forming in prison it’s not where the majority of gang members get their start.
“I’ve had people ask me, do most of these people get in gangs when they get into prison, the answer is no,” Fisher said. “That’s not to say that they don’t. some people may go into prison for a long stretch and join a gang just to protect themselves while they are in there. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but that is not where most of the gang activity is generated at. Most of the gang members that they identify going into the institutions are identified during the classification process.”
New legislation is currently being considered in the House and Senate that would help with ending gang activity in the state. Tony Lawrence, District Attorney for Jackson, George and Greene Counties says he started to realize the limitations of the current law several years ago.
“Their playbook is almost like what you saw the mafia, in their hay-day, do,” said DA Tony Lawrence. “They get legitimate businesses and they run the criminal proceeds through those businesses.”
Lawrence added that gangs are recruiting members and younger and younger ages. He said that new legislation would help officers and prosecutors shut down gangs like the Simon City Royals, the Gangster Disciples, and the Vice Lords, gangs which have origins going back to Chicago, Illinois. Currently, all 82 counties in Mississippi have a gang presence from one or more of these gangs.
“They get the young kids to go into the house, because they know that if the young kid gets caught they are going to youth court,” Lawrence said.
Senator Brice Wiggins introduced SB 2868 this year, and Representative Andy Gipson introduced HB 541. The anti-gang bill submitted to the House was a group effort between various state agencies, District Attorney’s, and Representative Andy Gips. If passed, the bill would create a new set of crimes.
“Any felony crimes committed by a gang, they are going to get enhanced penalties, they are going to get added jail time, it is going to be classified as a violent crime and they are going to spend 50%, at a minimum, of their time in prison,” said Representative Andy Gipson, author of the anti-gang bill, HB 541. “We want to send a message that we are taking this seriously.
Both the House and the Senate have passed anti-gang bills out of committee and they will soon be heading to their respective chamber floors.