The Pennsylvania State Senate will vote on HB 1121 Wednesday, according to Senator John Yudichak (D-Luzerne County) who amended two of his proposals into the original legislation.
The bill would define criminal gang activity, call on the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to toughen penalties to those involved in gangs, and make it illegal to recruit new members into a gang.
Yudichak said the legislation is in response to gangs moving from cities and into more suburban areas. He noted that Allegheny County Council has asked the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to fight gang influence in the county.
He said the shift in gang activity is due to their expanding of illegal enterprises from drug trafficking to include mortgage fraud and prostitution. Yudichak said law enforcement has been hampered in its efforts to handle crime as state and nationwide budget cuts take effect.
Yudichak said to combat budget cuts enforcement agencies need to cooperate.
“The force multiplier effect is what I hear from FBI agents, from the Attorney General,” said Yudichak. “Having the Attorney General’s office and the FBI office working with State Police and local police together to combat the crime to be a arsenal against organized gangs and driving them out of our neighborhoods and our schools.”
He said communities need to be participants in expelling gangs.
“If we have folks in the community that deny that gangs exist or deny that there’s gang activity going on in the schools and the neighborhoods, that really allows the gangs to flourish.”
If HB 1121 passes the Senate, it would move back to the House for consideration of Yudichak's amendments. Yudichak said he believes the bill has enough support to make it through to the governor’s desk.