Senate Approves Bill to Curb Gang Recruitment
Legislation designed to crack down on those who recruit members into violent street gangs, particularly children, was overwhelmingly approved today by the state Senate.
As part of a bipartisan effort to crack down on gang violence, the Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9), Senator John Rafferty (R-44), and Senator Ted Erickson (R-26) that would make it a crime to recruit gang members and toughen sentences for various crimes which are committed by criminal street gangs.
"Gang activity is no longer an issue that only affects our urban areas," said Senator Pileggi. "The impact of criminal street gangs in rural areas is growing. This legislation gives prosecutors new and more effective tools to combat the spread of gang violence and stop young people from getting involved in gang activity."
"We need to recognize the very real and very serious threat that gangs pose to our communities and our young people," said Senator Rafferty. "By making it a crime to recruit gang members, we can put a serious dent in gang participation and violence."
"This is not just a crime prevention measure, it's a child protection effort as well," said Senator Erickson. "Gang leaders use lies to recruit young people into their group, and they use intimidation and outright violence to prevent members from leaving."
In drafting the legislation, the senators worked closely with Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan, who is prosecuting 12 individuals between the ages of 16 and 20 for offenses related to the fatal stabbing of two rival gang leaders near Avondale, Chester County.
Individuals who solicit or otherwise cause a person to join or remain in a gang will commit a second-degree misdemeanor. Using threats or intimidation or inflicting bodily injury to cause a person to join or remain in a gang will be a first-degree misdemeanor, while inflicting serious bodily injury to cause a person to join or remain in a gang will be a third-degree felony.
If the subject of the recruitment is under 16 years old, the violation will be graded one degree higher.
At least 20 other states - including Delaware, New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan - have laws making it a crime to recruit gang members.
The legislation will also provide enhancements to the statutory sentence minimums for several crimes, including violent crimes and drug possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver, if those crimes are committed to benefit or promote the interests of a criminal street gang.
The bill is part of a comprehensive effort to crack down on expanding gang activity in Pennsylvania. The Senators applauded the work of Senator Lisa Baker (R-20), Senator John Gordner (R-27), Senator John Yudichak (D-14) and Senator John Blake (D-22), who have worked together with Congressman Lou Barletta on the "Operation GangUp" initiative in northeastern Pennsylvania.
Erik Arneson - Sen. Pileggi
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