Gang participation has reached unacceptable levels in our country and is threatening the safety and security of big cities, as well as small towns. According to the Department of Justice (DoJ), 82% of police departments serving large cities have reported youth gangs while the DoJ also reports gang activity has been increasing in smaller cities since 1999.

In my district, in Houston, crime has been on the rise; FBI reports growing trends of murder, rape and assault from 2005 to 2006. According to law enforcement officials, much of this increase in crime in Houston is related to the relocation of street gangs and drug traffickers from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

We must be vigilant to protect our communities from these thugs and criminals. Recently I introduced the Prosecutorial Tools Improvement Act of 2007, which will make our homes safer by providing greater latitude and resources to our nation’s prosecutors to go after gangs with the fullest extent of the law.

My bill imposes stiff penalties for crimes committed by drug traffickers and gangs that participate in the drug trade. The Prosecutorial Tools Improvement Act of 2007 mandates a life sentence for incidents of murder or kidnapping that are in relation to drug trafficking. Other violent felonies will result in imprisonment for a minimum of 30 years. And crimes such as conspiracy to commit a violent crime will result in imprisonment for a minimum of 10 to 20 years.

Gangs cause irreparable damage to communities and families throughout the United States. My bill gives prosecutors the tools they need to stop gang violence from invading our neighborhoods. Violent gang complaints are up 38 percent since 2002, but convictions have only increased 12 percent.  Clearly, we need more tools and resources to combat and stop gangs.  That is exactly what my bill, the Prosecutorial Tools Improvement Act, does.