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Clinton vows crackdown on intimidation by gangs

clinton_radio January 11, 1997
Web posted at: 1:00 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vowing to "break the backs" of violent youth gangs, President Clinton announced Saturday he will propose legislation early in his second term aimed at stopping gang members from intimidating criminal witnesses.

"Too many people will not testify about gang crimes because they are afraid of violent reprisal," he said in his weekly radio address. "We must not allow the voice of justice to be frightened into silence by the violent threats of gangs."

Citing a Justice Department report released Saturday, the president said he would submit legislation to Congress in coming weeks to curb gang intimidation.

Gang members and associates of defendants often appear in court to frighten witnesses into not testifying.

"I am determined to break the backs of criminal gangs that have ruined too many lives and stolen too many futures by bringing the full force of the law against them," Clinton said.

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Fear hampers investigations

In its report, the Justice Department said witness intimidation in gang- and drug-related cases is hampering the investigation and prosecution of crime throughout the United States.

One way to curb the activity, the report said, is to follow the advice of prosecutors and police: Communities should develop comprehensive witness-protection programs.

The president said he had asked Attorney General Janet Reno to examine the "growing threat" of witness intimidation by gangs and to recommend strong measures.

Clinton also said the struggle against youth violence and drug abuse is a top priority of his second term.

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