COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – A Lowcountry lawmaker is working on legislation that would better assist law enforcement fight gang-related violence in South Carolina.
State Representative Joe Bustos told News 2 his proposal would allow prosecutors and law enforcement across the state to have more tools to fight gangs.
“I have submitted a bill that was pre-filed and already gone through the prosecution commission on gang violence and racketeering in South Carolina,” said Rep. Bustos.
Rep. Bustos initially submitted his proposal early last year after meeting with people who are directly dealing with gang woes.
“I was a police officer for five years in Charleston and I met with Scarlett Wilson, as well as local police chiefs in Charleston, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and the islands,” he said.
They explained there were some things that would make prosecuting gangs easier.
Bustos said under his “Street Gang and Criminal Enterprise Prevention and Anti-Racketeering Act,” efforts to prevent a witness from testifying would be illegal.
“Going in and intimidating people would be illegal,” he said. “And they could be charged with that intimidation. Where now they can’t.”
It also makes organizing gang activity illegal, as part of racketeering.
“The bigger, they would be able to look at something that perhaps wasn’t a violent act, but law enforcement would be able to go after the gangs and their parent organizations.”
Bustos says law enforcement tells him gangs in the Charleston area may be a lot more organized than you might think.
“We have residents in Charleston, South Carolina, who actually go to Los Angeles and get their instructions of how to organize, and basically divide the territories up amongst gangs in South Carolina. And we can’t let that take root. We’re going to be way far behind in protecting our citizens.”
Bustos hopes his proposal could become law as soon as this summer.