FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Senators Pileggi, Rafferty & Erickson, D.A. Hogan, Announce Legislation to Fight Gang Recruiting
NEW GARDEN TOWNSHIP – Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9), Senator John Rafferty (R-44) and Senator Ted Erickson (R-26) today announced their plan to introduce legislation to create the criminal offense of "recruiting gang members" and enhance sentences for certain crimes committed by criminal street gangs.
The legislators worked closely with Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. 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 in Avondale, Chester County.
The Senators and the District Attorney were joined by Captain Bill White of the Pennsylvania State Police, Chief Gerald Simpson of New Garden Township, Chief Brian Sheller of Parkesburg, representing the Chester County Police Chiefs Association, Chief County Detective Jim Vito and County Detective Lieutenant Kevin Dykes.
"Gang activity is not limited to our major urban centers," Senator Pileggi said. "It has become apparent that we need to provide our prosecutors with new tools to combat the spread of gang violence. This legislation will help prevent young people from getting started in gang activity, which will in turn prevent unnecessary violence."
"From Chester County's perspective, this legislation is designed to protect our children and prevent criminal gangs from invading our communities. We will protect Chester County," District Attorney Hogan said. "If this legislation saves one kid from joining a criminal gang, it will be successful. If this legislation saves one young man from being killed in gang violence, it will have served its purpose. This legislation was inspired by two murders. Sometimes, good things come out of tragic circumstances."
"The recent violence has demonstrated the need for legislation that focuses on keeping people away from gangs by punishing those individuals who recruit or intimidate individuals into joining," Senator Rafferty said. "Unfortunately, teens and young adults are all too often the targets for recruitment and intimidation by gang members and once these young people join a gang, it is often very difficult for them to get out. I believe this legislation will be an important tool for law enforcement in their efforts to curb gang participation and decrease gang violence."
"Gang leaders use lies to recruit young people into their group – a promise of power and respect that ultimately ends in imprisonment or death," Senator Erickson said. "And they use intimidation and outright violence to prevent members from leaving once the truth about gangs becomes apparent. This legislation sends the message that society won't sit by while thugs try to convince young citizens to join their criminal activities. I commend District Attorney Thomas Hogan for championing this measure, and I hope the legislature acts swiftly to provide this new tool to law enforcement."
The legislation will create three categories of the new criminal offense "recruiting gang members."
Individuals who solicit or invite a person to join or remain in a gang will commit a first-degree misdemeanor. Using threats or intimidation to cause a person to join or remain in a gang will be a third-degree felony, while inflicting bodily harm to cause a person to join or remain in a gang will be a third-degree felony with a sentencing enhancement.
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 sentencing enhancements to the statutory 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.