FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Governor Signs Bill to Curb Gang Recruitment
Legislation drafted by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9), Senator John Rafferty (R-44), and Senator Ted Erickson (R-26) to crack down on those who recruit members into criminal street gangs, particularly children, was signed into law today by Governor Tom Corbett.
The new law, which the Senators drafted together with Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan, will make it a crime to recruit gang members and will strengthen the penalties for various crimes committed by criminal street gangs.
"Gang activity has hit communities all across Pennsylvania," said Senator Pileggi. "It is not limited to urban areas - we've seen the tragic consequences of gang violence in suburban and rural areas as well. I'm pleased that we now have a law on the books giving prosecutors powerful new tools to prosecute those who try to force children and young adults to join criminal gangs."
"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."
District Attorney 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, said the new law will produce tangible results. "We've had too many mothers watching their children be put into the ground, dead as a result of gang-related violence," Hogan said. "This law is designed to protect our children and prevent criminal gangs from invading our communities."
At least 20 other states - including Delaware, New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan - have laws making it a crime to recruit gang members. The legislation was approved by the Senate, 45 to 3, on October 3. The House approved the bill unanimously.
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 criminal 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 gang.
The language developed by Senators Pileggi, Rafferty and Erickson was amended into House Bill 1121.
The new law 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.