State leaders take another step in the fight against gang violence here in the Valley. Attorney General Bob McDonnell announces a Shenandoah Valley Anti-Gang Initiative.
"Gangs are here in the Shenandoah Valley and their numbers are increasing. We have suffered three gang related homicides since 2001," says Augusta County Sheriff Randy Fisher. Since 2001, Sheriff Fisher says there have been numerous crimes throughout the Valley committed by gang members. Congressman Bob Goodlatte says the FBI has recognized the existence of six separate gangs in our area.
Attorney General Bob McDonnell says Virginia has had tough penalties and state prosecution, what he says it hasn't had is an organized effort among state, local and federal authorities with the aid of a multi-jurisdictional grand jury to target gang violence. He says gang activity is not limited to just Augusta County or Harrisonburg City, but is throughout all local jurisdictions. "They may operate in one jurisdiction for their meetings, but they might commit an act of violence in another jurisdiction and so the way to coordinate and to spearhead that activity is to have a multi-jurisdictional grand jury," says Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell.
A multi-jurisdictional grand jury will be counseled by Phil Figura who is the first full-time gang prosecutor for the Valley. Figura was also sworn in as a Special Assistant United States Attorney and will work to bring cases against gang members in federal court.
This initiative is already making progress in court. On August 7th, the first indictment by the multi-jurisdictional grand jury was handed down for felony gang participation and destruction of property.