FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ)- A bill that would make recruiting gang members a felony in Kentucky passed its first legislative hurdle in Frankfort this week.
House Bill 169 would make it a felony for people to actively recruit criminal gang members.
“Not only in Louisville or Lexington but across our state we have very active gangs who really seek out very young people, sometimes as young as eight years old and they bring them into these gangs and of course more than likely that young man or young lady are going to end up either imprisoned at some time or even worse, being killed,” said Rep. Robert Benvenuti,R-Lexington.
Rep. Benvenuti sponsored the bill and says it’s a necessary step to crack down on what he calls a huge gang problem in Kentucky.
But many leaders in the African-American community in Lexington believe this bill would not deter gang recruitment but instead create another barrier between law enforcement and minority groups.
“This measure is a draconian. It is a measure that automatically discriminates against youth that are either poor or African-American or Hispanic. It basically targets them as gangs. So it’s basically saying that if I have a couple of guys that are together and maybe one commits some kind of crime, if two of those guys are together, or two women, two girls for that matter, they are automatically a gang,” said Anthony Everett, a Lexington pastor and opponent of the bill.
Representative Benvenuti says law enforcement agencies across the state are supportive of his bill which now goes to the full house for a vote.