BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — New York State is taking steps to end gang violence.
This week, the State Senate passed new legislation to crack down on the rise of gang violence across the state.
The new bill would create the “Criminal Street Gang Enforcement Act” to better prosecute gang violence and stop gang recruitment.
For the first time ever, this legislation legally defines criminal street gangs in New York’s penal statutes. It gives prosecutors more options when charging offenders and helps law enforcement to better track gangs.
Under the new legislation, tougher penalties would be created for people involved in gangs or for people who recruit minors into gangs.
“There’s an effort in many cases for the older ones to recruit younger people in to that and those penalties should be severe,” said Pastor James Giles, President/CEO of Back to Basic Outreach Ministries, Inc.
While community leaders say the bill is a work in progress, some fear new laws will target the innocent.
“My concern is that it may blanket those individuals that may not be gang members, they may be fearful, young men that are carrying weapons, not really affiliated with nothing, I wouldn’t want them to get caught up in that cross,” said Pastor Giles.
Giles says laws alone won’t stop the violence. “Penalties, the threat of punishment has never been a deterrent for crimes.”
The legislation would also give money to non-profits such as Back to Basics Outreach Ministries, Peacemakers and SNUG.
“Funding is the key, being able to pull these guys out the street, because they need something to do,” said Billie Webster, Program Manager for SNUG.
Community leaders say it’s programs like SNUG that will ultimately put an end to gang warfare.
“We bring them out of that type of lifestyle and show them that they can change their lives, because we did,” said Webster.
The proposal would also create model curriculum’s for schools related to education and gang violence prevention.
The bill, which has passed in the senate in previous years, now heads to the Assembly.