Residents encouraged to sign up for stiffer gang penalties.
Tuesday afternoon, our State Senator George Runner and his wife, Assemblywoman Sharon Runner kicked of a drive to get enough signatures to get their new gang initiative on November’s ballot.
The new initiative is called the Safe Neighborhoods Act, and it looks to increase penalties for gang members and crimes often associated with gangs. The initiative also sets up accountability measures for programs so that taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted.
Why an initiative? Both George and Sharon Runner said that they have had no luck getting these items passed through the legislature.
“What we’ve done is put together a series of legislation that was basically killed in the public safety committee,” Senator Runner said. “These are issues that if you put them before the average voters, they’re going to vote for them.”
“The biggest initiative that I can think of is the three strikes law,” Assemblywoman Runner said. “That was done by the people, it’s worked, and what we need to do is take it to the people again and say ‘this is what we want to do.’”
One of the items would provide for a 10-year penalty for gang members who commit violent crimes.
Another would prevent illegal immigrants from posting bail if they are charged with violent felonies. Currently, they can be granted bail. “It’s ridiculous, they should be kept, they should be held, and they should be tried.”
Here’s a list of some of the other new things the Runners say this initiative would do:
- Provide greater accountability regarding taxpayer dollars spent on crime prevention programs.
- Redirect funding for police, sheriff and other law enforcement agencies in an effort to increase public safety.
- Create a parolee mentor program, which will provide workforce preparation and help felons reenter the system.
- Increase penalties for gang recruitment of juveniles.
- Rewrite laws by allowing admission of sworn statements by people who have witnessed gang crimes, even if those witnesses are unable to testify in court due to intimidation.
- Penalize methamphetamine users and dealers on the same level that cocaine users and dealers are penalized.
- Add a 10-year penalty for dangerous felons who carry loaded or concealed firearms in public.
In order to get the initiative on the ballot, a large number of signatures need to be collected.
“We need 435,000 good signatures, which means that our goal is to collect about 700,000 signatures,” George Runner said, adding that they have already gathered a third of those.
They will continue to gather signatures through the first week of May.
To find out more, check out the website at www.safeneighborhoodsact.com.
You can also hear the entire on-air discussion with the Runners about this act by clicking here.
To sign the petition, you can visit the KHTS studios in Canyon Country or the KHTS Community Resource Station in the Westfield Valencia Town Center. A coalition for this cause is also being formed at safeneighborhoods.com.