FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 7, 2009
SCHUMER FIGHTS FOR BILL TO GIVE SYRACUSE TOUGH NEW TOOLS TO COMBAT GANGS AS CITY SEES SEVERE RASH OF VIOLENCE
With Sharp Increase in Violence Over Past Week and Last Year, Schumer Introduces Legislation to Combat Gang Violence, Increase Gang Prosecution and Prevention Efforts
Legislation Will Provide Resources to Local Law Enforcement to Help Fight Criminal Street-Gang Violence in Syracuse and Across the Country
Schumer: Sharp Spike in Violence in Syracuse is Unacceptable and Must Be Stopped
Following several shootings and incidents of gang related violence in Syracuse over the past week and a sharp increase in violence in 2008, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a plan to increase federal penalties to crack down on local street gangs and to provide more than $1 billion in funding nationwide for gang enforcement, prevention and intervention programs. Gangs and gang violence have plagued the streets of Syracuse over the last several years. From January to June 2008 there were a total of 6,224 crimes in Onondaga County—up 6.9% from the same time in 2007. Schumer said that in the wake of a New Year's Eve day shooting in Syracuse and several other possibly gang-related incidents that have killed or injured at least 7 people in Syracuse it is vital that law enforcement be beefed up with more personnel, stronger punishments for criminals, and more money to fund special tough-on-crime prevention programs.
To increase available resources for local enforcement officials, Senator Schumer today announced that he has joined his colleague, Dianne Feinstein, in introducing the comprehensive gang legislation, the “Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2009.” The legislation will assist enforcement officials by creating stricter criminal laws and penalties for those who commit gang-related crimes. The legislation will also set aside funding to assist investigations, prosecutions, and witness protection programs.
“The rash of violence we are seeing in Syracuse is intolerable and must be stopped. That’s why I will fight to the end to provide local law enforcement officials the resources they need to combat this problem,” said Schumer. “The best vaccine to combat the rise of gangs and gang violence is a comprehensive assault to break those gangs up and provide support for law enforcement who are on the front lines, as well as by addressing the underlying causes that allow gangs to coalesce and recruit. Our legislation will inject those resources into the community so that Syracuse and Central New York have the resources they need.”
Two fatal shootings in Syracuse on December 31st were the 24th and 25th homicides of 2008, putting last year in a tie with 2002 for a record number of homicides in Syracuse, according to Syracuse Police Department. Four days later, a man and four teens were shot. Additionally, other violent acts have been on the rise over the past year. According to New York State crime statistics, the number of forcible rapes in Onondaga County increased 31.9% from 2007 to 2008. During that same time period, burglary was up 13.1%, Motor Vehicle Theft was up 6.5%, Larceny was up 6.7% and Property Theft was up 8.2%.
To combat the growing threat of gang and city violence in Syracuse and across the country, Schumer today announced a new plan to combat the rise in gangs and growing fears over violence in the area. The AGang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2009@ is a comprehensive criminal bill to increase gang prosecution and prevention efforts. The Senate bill, which is virtually identical to Schumer-sponsored legislation in last year’s Congress, will do the following:
- Establish an extended federal commitment to help fight criminal street gang violence nationwide, by authorizing more than $1 billion over the next five years in a coordinated and balanced approach that will combine Federal, State and local law enforcement efforts, expanded witness protection, and services geared toward gang prevention;
- Set aside at least $411.5 million of the funding amount for gang prevention and intervention by schools, civic groups focused on at-risk youth, and other programs, modeled after the successful Operation Ceasefire strategy and other proven approaches, and with a new Gang Research, Evaluation and Policy Institute established to study and collect best practices for the prevention of gang violence;
- Establish a new High Intensity Gang Activity Area (HIGAA) program, structured to facilitate cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in identifying, targeting, and eliminating violent gangs in areas where gang activity is particularly prevalent. The law enforcement officers participating in this program would coordinate their efforts with local prevention and intervention organizations.
- Set aside $270 million for witness protection reserved for local law enforcement authorities, and establish a new federal crime of interstate interference with witnesses in state criminal proceedings.
- Increase funding for the Justice Department, prosecutors, FBI agents and others to increase investigations and prosecutions of gangs and other violent offenders;
- Replace the current federal law’s mere sentencing enhancement for gang-related conduct – a provision rarely used – with new federal anti-gang laws that directly criminalize and substantially increase penalties for violent street gang crimes.
- Create new a federal crime for the recruitment of criminal street gang members, with extra punishments for recruiting of minors, or recruiting from inside prison;
- Enhance the penalties for existing racketeering other violent crimes, create a new federal crime for violence committed in furtherance of drug trafficking, and enact various other changes to the federal criminal code designed to more effectively deter and punish violence by criminal street gangs and other violent criminals.
Schumer said that the Act's chances of passing are strong because of it has already passed the Senate, and will again have bipartisan support from members of the Judiciary Committee.
Schumer also announced that the bill sets aside significant sums for mentoring programs, afterschool programs, and other crime prevention programs specifically targeted at youth.