(1) The Legislature finds that it is the right of every person, regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, or handicap, to be secure and protected from fear, intimidation, and physical harm caused by the activities of criminal gangs and their members. It is not the intent of this chapter to interfere with the exercise of the constitutionally protected rights of freedom of expression and association. The Legislature recognizes the constitutional right of every citizen to harbor and express beliefs on any lawful subject whatsoever, to lawfully associate with others who share similar beliefs, to petition lawfully constituted authority for a redress of perceived grievances, and to participate in the electoral process.
(2) The Legislature finds, however, that the state is facing a mounting crisis caused by criminal gangs whose members threaten and terrorize peaceful citizens and commit a multitude of crimes. These criminal gang activities, both individually and collectively, present a clear and present danger. Street gangs, terrorist organizations, and hate groups have evolved into increasingly sophisticated and complex organized crime groups in their criminal tactics, schemes, and brutality. The state has a compelling interest in preventing criminal gang activity and halting the real and present danger posed by the proliferation of criminal gangs and the graduation from more primitive forms of criminal gangs to highly sophisticated criminal gangs. For these reasons, the Legislature finds that the provisions of this chapter are essential to maintain public order and safety.
(3) It is the intent of the Legislature to outlaw certain conduct associated with the existence and proliferation of criminal gangs, provide enhanced criminal penalties, and eliminate the patterns, profits, proceeds, instrumentalities, and property facilitating criminal gang activity, including criminal gang recruitment.
(4) The Legislature finds that the timely reporting and exchange of criminal gang information facilitates the ability of law enforcement agencies to monitor and anticipate criminal activities of gangs and their members. Additionally, the timely and standardized reporting of such criminal gang information supports the identification of gang members via the criminal justice information system and directly contributes to law enforcement officers’ safety. For these reasons, it is the intent of the Legislature to encourage state and local law enforcement agencies to facilitate the exchange of crime data information through the statewide criminal gang database as provided in s. 874.09.