Senate Approves Bill to Curb Gang Recruitment
Legislation designed to crack down on those who recruit members into violent
street gangs, particularly children, was overwhelmingly approved today by the
As part of a bipartisan effort to crack down on gang violence, the Senate
today approved legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi
(R-9), Senator John Rafferty (R-44), and Senator Ted Erickson (R-26) that would
make it a crime to recruit gang members and toughen sentences for various crimes
which are committed by criminal street gangs.
"Gang activity is no longer an issue that only affects our urban areas," said
Senator Pileggi. "The impact of criminal street gangs in rural areas is growing.
This legislation gives prosecutors new and more effective tools to combat the
spread of gang violence and stop young people from getting involved in gang
"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
"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."
In drafting the legislation, the senators
worked closely with Chester County District Attorney Thomas 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.
Their legislation, introduced as
Senate Bill 965, was amended into
House Bill 1121. It 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
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.
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 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 street gang.
The bill is part of a comprehensive 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.
Erik Arneson - Sen. Pileggi
Ryan Boop - Sen. Rafferty
Tom Golden - Sen. Erickson