Communities could designate gang-free zones under Utah Senate bill

By Rette Speight

The Associated Press
Updated: 01/27/2009 03:03:13 PM MST

The state Senate approved a bill Tuesday that would allow local officials to create gang-free zones.

Senate Bill 16 would let communities fine gang members $100 each if three or more of them are found in a gang-free zone and refuse to leave.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Jon Greiner, R-Ogden, was approved 26-1. It was defeated last year because many lawmakers feared it was unconstitutional, but Greiner says he has made some changes so it complies with the law.

According to the bill, some officers would receive extra training in identifying gang members. In addition to using a gang registry, Greiner says officers would also use things like tattoos and “hip-hop clothing” to identify gang members.

Some groups are still concerned the bill might not be constitutional because they fear it could be used for racial profiling. However, Greiner said the bill mirrors laws on the books in nine other states. So far, he said there have been no problems or court challenges.

“This is probably the hardest way to solve this problem,” Greiner said. “There are many other ways to get things done.”

The bill was originally drafted after a 2007 fatal shooting in Ogden, where Greiner is the police chief. City officials said large groups of gang members frequented the area where the shooting happened and the out-of-state corporate landowners did not act to get them off the property.

Ogden passed an ordinance that same year that prohibited gangs from loitering, but city leaders say it’s been ineffective because it depends on residents to testify against gang members and many people are reluctant to do that.

Greiner’s bill seeks to address that problem by giving police the ability to cite gang members.

The bill will get one more formal reading in the Senate before it is heard in the House.

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