A statewide effort to combat gang activity and recruitment moved forward yesterday after the House approved a bill that would implement tougher sentencing on those convicted of gang-related crimes. The Senate has already given its approval so it is now on the governor's desk.
Senator John Yudichak (R-Luzerne) said gang activity is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.
“It would make it tougher for gangs to do their business in our communities and in our schools. It would protect our children from recruitment by these organized gangs, so I think it’s a very important landmark piece of legislation—Pennsylvania’s first gang-specific law on the books. I encourage the governor to sign it,” Yudichak said.
The number of gangs in Northeastern Pennsylvania has been spreading into rural communities and gang activity, which includes drug trafficking, mortgage fraud, and prostitution, has also been increasing.
Yudichak said the provision that will make recruitment of gang members illegal is a major aspect of the legislation. Supporters believe it is a major step toward preventing gangs from growing.
“The provision that would make it a crime to recruit I think would disable many of these gangs. If we make it tougher for them to do business in Pennsylvania, the less they’ll do business in Pennsylvania. The more impediments we put in their way, the better.”
Along with Congressman Lou Barletta (R PA-11), Yudichak created the “Operation Gang Up” program. A series of educational seminars will be offered and headed by local government officials and law enforcement to educate the public about gang activity.
Yudichak said it is not just the state, but the local communities as well that are committed to the fight against gang operations.
“We do not want organized gangs around our schools, around our children, or in our community, we need drive them out, I think this legislation will be big part of sending a strong message that we are going to protect every child and we are going to protect our communities,” Yudichak said.
The bill will become law 60 days after it is signed by Governor Tom Corbett.