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With Gang Killings Skyrocketing In Ny, Schumer And Long Island Gang-Slay Widow Unveil Tough New Tools To Fight Gangs

Despite historically low number of murders in New York City, gang slayings are up 80% over last year

New bipartisan legislation sets up $463 million in Federal funding for new prosecutors and witness protection and creates harsh penalties for gang recruitment and gang crimes

Senator is joined by Caryn Battaglia, whose husband was killed by gang members in September, and Quee

Joined by Caryn Battaglia, whose husband was brutally murdered by gang members and died on the steps of their Lynbrook home in September, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today unveiled sweeping bipartisan legislation to give prosecutors tough new tools to go after gang activity in New York. Gang slayings are up 80% over the last year in New York City, despite the historic lows in overall number of murders.

"When a father of two can be shot and stabbed to death for absolutely no reason while walking home from an LIRR station, it's time to say enough is enough," Schumer said. "This new law gives cops and prosecutors tough new options to throw the book at gang members. It even makes it easier for them to pursue the death penalty when that's the right thing to do. Anthony Battaglia's murder shows that gang violence could strike any of us which is why Democrat and Republicans we will work together to get this bill passed. Caryn Battaglia has bravely rallied against gang violence since her husband's death, and I thank her for her courage to stand up with us today to fight back."

A father of two, Anthony Battaglia, 37, was killed by four members of the Latin Kings gang and a female accomplice who were cruising Long Island's south shore looking for victims to rob and assault, according to Nassau County Police and prosecutors. Mr. Battaglia became their random target on the night of September 18, and was stabbed and shot by them. He made it to his back door, where Mrs. Battaglia found him unconscious and where he died. His wallet was found at the scene intact. Schumer today praised the coordinated efforts of the Nassau County Police Department, who arrested the suspected killers on February 4.

Schumer was also joined today by Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who represents the communities of Corona, East Elmhurst, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights in the New York City Council. Councilman Monserrate was a New York Police Department Officer for 12 years and was the founding member of the Latino Officers Association. Since being elected in 2001, Monserrate has led the fight against gangs in the Council. He has been an outspoken advocate for additional resources to combat the rise of gangs and violent crime in New York City, and he brought more police officers and the successful crimefighting initiative "Operation Impact" to his community to fight a spike in violent crime.

In 2003, there were 52 gangmotivated homicides in New York City, a nearly 80% increase over the 29 gangmotivated homicides in 2002, according to NYPD records. With the NYPD and other law enforcement bringing the overall murder rate to historic lows and keeping it there, gang killings now have a disproportionate effect nearly one of every six people killed in New York City last year died at the hands of one or more gang members. But Schumer noted that the NYPD achieved doubledigit declines in almost every other major gangcrime category last year and also succeeded at getting 302 guns off the streets.

There are currently approximately 15,000 gang members in New York City according to law enforcement experts although less than 3,600 are active members and not in prison. Among the most active gangs are the Bloods, the Crips, the Latin Kings, the �etas, The Mexican Boys, Los Vagos (The Lazy Ones), Los Traviesos (The Troublemakers), Los Pitufos (The Smurfs) and a gang of Salvadoran nationals called Mara Salvatrucha or MS 13 which is also very active on Long Island.

Gang activity is also skyrocketing in New York City's suburbs. The Nassau and Suffolk County Police Departments make 100 gangrelated arrests a month. Gang arrests more than doubled in 5 years in Nassau County, and have more than tripled in 3 years in Suffolk. Since May of 1998, 37 separate gangs have been identified as criminally active in Westchester County and approximately 400 cases have been prosecuted by the Westchester District Attorney's Office.

The Criminal Street Gang Abatement Act that Schumer is cosponsoring with Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (RUT) and 5 other Senate Republicans will let prosecutors create new federal offenses to let prosecutors go after street gangs, strengthen existing penalties against gangs, and let more prosecutors try juveniles who commit serious violent crimes as adults. Specifically Schumer's Criminal Street Gang Abatement Act will:

" Make gang recruitment a new crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail. The Act will also instate tough new jail penalties for trying to recruit a minor under the age of 18 to reduce gang recruitment in high schools.

" Make committing 2 gang street crimes punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The Act creates a new federal crime punishable by up to 30 years in prison to participate in a criminal street gang by committing two or more "predicate gang crimes" crimes that help the gang or are initiation rites to get into the gang. The Act also makes it a crime to help a gang or gang members commit a crime.

" Give life imprisonment to gang members who commit murder saving prosecutors from having to use more complicated RICO laws to get these harsher penalties. New York law enforcement officials were nationwide pioneers in using the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute to go after street gangs, which they have done with a great deal of success. RICO prosecutions are difficult and time consuming, which takes away valuable law enforcement resources that could be used to prosecute other crimes. Under this Act, if defendant participating in a street crime commits murder, they are eligible for life imprisonment or the death penalty without having to resort to RICO.

" Make it easier for prosecutors to treat 16yearolds as adults if they commit serious violent offenses like murder, manslaughter, carjacking, or armed robbery. The Act makes it easier for a prosecutors to charge minors 16 and older as adults in federal courts after a hearing and an assessment of the circumstances. Schumer noted that judges will review cases to ensure that is in the interest of justice to charge a juvenile as an adult. Schumer noted that judges will only make this assessment after they have considered the age of the defendant, the nature of the offense and whether it is a serious violent crime, the juvenile's criminal record, the juvenile's intellectual development and his response to prior treatment, and the availability of any programs in federal and state courts to help him in making this decision.

" Require that gang members be given separate consecutive sentences anytime they are convicted of both being in a gang and committing violence as part of the gang. Under this act, for example, a criminal who is selling drugs for a gang and shoots someone in the process will now be given consecutive sentences for both the shooting and the gangrelated drug sale.

The Act also authorizes an additional, separate $40 million a year (for a total of $200 million) for programs that help young people stay out of gangs including communitybased programs to provide crime prevention, research, and intervention services for gang member and atrisk youth in highrisk areas.

The Criminal Street Gang Abatement Act will also create $463 million in federal funding programs to fight gang violence because it will:

" Provide $20 million a year for 5 years (for a total of $100 million) for local witness protection programs and for grants to state and local prosecutors to combat violent crime. " Designate "High Intensity Interstate Gang Activity Areas" and authorizes $60 million a year for them for 5years (for a total of $300 million). Based on the Federal Drug Czar's "High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas" program run by the Drug Czar's office, the Act allows the US Attorney General to designate certain areas as high gang areas, to create local task forces and to send other federal money and resources to fight a gang problem in that area. It automatically calls for the creation of Gang Task Forces in these areas to include agents from the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the U.S. Marshals Service, Department of Homeland Security and state and local law enforcement. " Hire 94 New Federal Prosecutors at a cost of $7.5 million year for them for 5 years (for a total of $37.5 million) to Expand the Justice Department's Project Safe Neighborhoods Program, which is being used by the U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District to aggressively fight gun and gang related crimes. " Provide $5 million a year for 5 years (for a total of $25 million) for the FBI's "Safe Streets Program" which is used to fight gangs and related street gangs. These funds will pay for new FBI agents and the resources needed to support them.

The Act also directs the US Sentencing Commission to increase penalties for gangrelated crimes. Schumer noted that the Act's chances of passing are strong because of its bipartisan support from members of the Judiciary Committee, and Schumer said that New York is likely to get significant support because the new federal funds will focus on areas like New York with gang problems.

"No New Yorker should have to live in fear of gang violence not one. The US Attorneys and the FBI are already doing everything they can to work handinglove with the D.A.s and the police to eradicate gang violence in New York, then this new law would give them even more power and authority both to prevent gang violence and to punish it," Schumer said.

Recent Gang Incidents in NYC

" On December 19, a thirty year old man was shot in the face for badmouthing a Bronx street gang. " On December 22, a Brooklyn woman was killed in front of her children as a longsimmering dispute between two gangs erupted in gunfire outside a nightclub. " On January 12, five men, including members of the Latin Kings gang beat construction workers in an ethnically charged attack in Brooklyn. " On January 16, an offduty NYPD rookie was attacked by two knifewielding gang members who demanded $3 from him on a Manhattan subway train. The officer was able to defend himself. " On January 21, a Russian immigrant was beat to death with a baseball bat by a Hispanic gang in East Williamsburg. " On January 21, a man was killed in a gunfight between members of two rival Mexican gangs on a Manhattan subway train. " On January 30, a teenager was stabbed to death in front of a Queens apartment building yesterday in what neighbors suspected was gang violence. Another teenager was stabbed and rushed to the hospital. " On February 10, a gangrelated triple shooting left one man dead and two critically wounded in a Coney Island elevator. " On February 21, a member of the Bloods was shot once in the neck during a fight in Queens. " On February 23, a 14yearold boy was beaten and stabbed on a Harlem street when he said "no" to two men who demanded to know if he was in a gang. " On March 1, the house manager of a topless club was killed on a Queens street minutes after leaving work when she got caught in predawn crossfire as two brawling gangs suddenly pulled guns and began firing at each other. " On March 11, police arrested members of a gang that is believed responsible for at least 24 stickups over the past two months, including bodegas and one gas station in five north and centralBronx neighborhoods, Yonkers and Mount Vernon, and one robbery in the 115th Precinct in Queens.

(Descriptions taken from press accounts, not NYPD data.)