With Suffolk Gang Membership Skyrocketing 900%, Schumer Introduces New Gang Bill With Tougher Penalities And $1 Billion In Funding For Enforcement, Prevention, And Intervention Programs
Schumer: Mayors, DA, and Local Law Enforcement Officials Lack Tools and Resources to Thwart Growing Gang ViolenceSuffolk County is Now Home to an Estimated 2,000 Gang Members; Local Schools Targeted for Recruitment
Concerned that Suffolk County is increasingly becoming a hotbed for gangrelated violence, today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer 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. Over the past decade, Suffolk County has become a breeding ground for gangs with the estimated number of members rising 900%, from 200 in 1997 to 2,000 in 2007, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.
We must nip the growing problem of gang violence in the bud. The recent wave of gang violence in Suffolk County threatens the quality of life for all residents, particularly our youth, said Senator Schumer. This bill gives law enforcement officials and community members the federal assistance and tools they need to attack the problem at its root and fix it before it grows out of control, said Schumer.
Over the past five years, Central American gangs including Mara Salvatrucha (also known as M13 or M18) and the emergence of groups affiliated with the notorious Bloods and Crips have fueled a surge in illegal and dangerous activities across Suffolk County. In 2006, Danielle Baker, a 14 yearold from Copiague, Long Island, was murdered at a party after gangrelated violence broke out and she was shot in the neck. Gangs are also expanding their ranks by targeting local schools for recruits.
To increase available resources for local enforcement officials, Senator Schumer today announced that he will introduce new comprehensive gang legislation, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007. Schumers legislation will assist enforcement officials by creating stricter criminal laws and penalties for those who commit gangrelated crimes. The legislation will also set aside funding to assist investigations, prosecutions, and witness protection programs.
His legislation will authorize $1.05 billion for the following:
- $500 million to support collaborative efforts by federal, state and local law enforcement in combating violent gangs in highintensity gang areas. These funds would be split evenly between law enforcement and prevention programs.
- $150 million to expand Project Safe Neighborhoods, a Justice Department program to reduce gun violence, and the FBIs Safe Streets Violent Crime Initiative.
- $100 million to expand violent crime enforcement personnel, technology, equipment and training.
- $270 million to fund witness protection programs.
To protect Suffolk Countys minors, Schumers legislation will also make it a criminal offense for gangs to recruit minors.
A longtime crusader against gangrelated violence, on April 3, 2006, Senator Schumer announced his Short Term Witness Protection Act of 2006, which will create a new federal grants program to pay for protecting witnesses in state and local criminal trials. The $90 millionayear plan makes the federal government responsible for assisting local governments in paying for witness protection in major violent crime court cases in highcrime areas. Schumer said that threats against witnesses on Long Island often result in either dismissals or significantly reduced plea deals because witnesses are too afraid to come forward. The prosecution of a number of key cases in 2005 was seriously impeded because of witness intimidation.
Schumer said that local prosecutors are faced with a doubleedged sword in protecting witnesses: they have far too few resources to pay to protect as many witnesses as they would like, but every dollar they add to witness protection programs comes at the cost of money for prosecutors and criminal prosecutions. Most District Attorneys report that putting any additional resources into the program without federal help will impede prosecutors' ability to try cases and will increase backlogs in the judicial system
The Justice Department's current Federal Witness Protection Program is designed to provide longterm protection for witnesses in cases that are being tried in Federal courts. Schumers legislation would create a new grants program through the federal government with the sole purpose of protecting witnesses in state and local criminal trials.
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