Bill to Curb Gang Recruitment Sent to Governor
Legislation cracking down on those who recruit members into violent street gangs, particularly children, was unanimously approved today by the state House. The bill will be sent to Governor Tom Corbett for his signature.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9), Senator John Rafferty (R-44), and Senator Ted Erickson (R-26) introduced Senate Bill 965, which would make it a crime to recruit gang members and would strengthen the penalties for various crimes committed by criminal street gangs, earlier this year.
"Gang violence is impacting communities all across Pennsylvania: urban, suburban and rural," said Senator Pileggi. "I'm pleased that we will soon have a law on the books giving prosecutors powerful new tools to combat the spread of 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."
The language developed by Senators Pileggi, Rafferty and Erickson was amended into House Bill 1121. 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.
HB 1121 was approved by the Senate, 45 to 3, on October 3. The House vote was 195 to 0. Governor Corbett is expected to sign it into law.
At least 20 other states – including Delaware, New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan – have laws making it a crime to recruit gang members.
The new law will create three categories of the new criminal offense "recruiting gang members."
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.
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 bipartisan 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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