Across the country, radicals are assaulting police officers, establishing police-free autonomous zones and demanding we defund and abolish the police. Over the weekend, violent riots continued in cities like Seattle, Portland, Austin and Oakland with “protestors” smashing windows and setting fires. It should surprise no one that this has led to a surge in murders, shootings and gang violence in many cities. Just last week, 15 people were injured in a gang-related shooting at a funeral in Chicago.
There are more than 1.4 million gang members from 33,000 gangs across the United States. They commit chilling crimes, like the murder of Janina Valenzuela, a 14-year old who was killed by a member of the MS-13 gang in Marietta, Georgia.
According to the most recent National Gang Report, half of law enforcement officials reported that gang-related violence had increased in their jurisdiction. It’s not just violence that gangs bring to our communities. They also run elaborate drug operations and deal in the abhorrent world of human trafficking.
Thankfully, President Trump has taken strong action to restore law and order in our cities and to address this rising tide of gang violence. Just last week President Trump increased federal law enforcement officers to stop what he called a “shocking explosion” of crime in American cities and announced $61 million in grant funding to help local police officers keep communities safe. Earlier this month, for the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Justice brought terrorism charges against a member of the MS-13 gang – taking their leader and 21 other gang members off the streets.
My home state of Georgia has also been proactive on cracking down on gang violence. Under the leadership of Governor Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, Georgia has led the way in confronting gang violence to give prosecutors enhanced tools to disrupt and dismantle gang networks. As violence continues to skyrocket, it is clear it’s time to provide these powerful tools to the rest of the country. That is why last week, U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and Marsha Blackburn joined me in introducing the Cracking Down on Gangs and Deporting Criminals Act to replicate Georgia’s anti-gang, pro-community safety measures across the country.
This legislation is based on the Georgia law that Attorney General Carr has called “one of the strongest statutes in the nation.” It will update federal law to make it easier for federal prosecutors to seek longer sentences for gang activity and facilitate the deportation of criminal gang members who are in our country illegally. It will also create a national gang database, making it easier to share information and root out gang networks.
The Cracking Down on Gangs and Deporting Criminals Act will help keep our communities safe and support law enforcement who go after these criminals. We need to take action now to remove these dangerous criminals from our streets, restore order in our cities and stop the senseless violence. Too many lives have been tragically cut short at the hands of gang members. We cannot allow that to continue. It’s time we hold gang members accountable for their vile and evil actions and keep the American public safe.
Kelly Loeffler is the junior U.S. Senator from Georgia.