The New York State Legislature hopes to end gang activity with the help of newly passed anti-gang legislation.
“They are a constant and serious threat to the quality of life in our communities and the safety our children and families,” said State Senator Frank Padavan, who serves the neighborhoods in Northeast Queens like Flushing, Whitestone and Bayside. “This legislation addresses the problem of gang activity at the root with prevention and increased criminal penalties for gang-related activity.”
The State Senate and the Assembly passed the bill on Thursday, June 24, designed to curb gang violence across the state by creating a “gang assessment, intervention, prevention and suppression program” in New York.
The measure would give state law enforcement authorities and local prosecutors a statewide tool to investigate, prosecute and prevent gang activity.
The gang program would allow the New York State Police Superintendent to work with local and federal law enforcement to develop a plan to suppress gang activity and create a centralized location where information relating to gangs operating in the state will be kept.
“It is clear that we have a gang problem in New York State,” said Assemblymember Jeffrion L. Aubry, who serves the neighborhoods of Corona, Corona Heights and East Elmhurst, “particularly in Queens, especially along Roosevelt Avenue.”
It would also authorize the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Commissioner to award grants to district attorneys to help stop gang activity. As well as require the forfeiture of financial gains from criminal gang activities be placed in a fund.
“It’s about time,” said Arnaldo A. Salinas, senior director of the Guardian Angels, a non-profit volunteer organization that provides public safety and education programs. “They are a day late and a dollar short. Gangs have been a problem for a long time.”
Salinas pointed out that in Queens, the members of the gangs that try to rule streets are from Latin American countries like Mexico, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. He said his main concern is that gangs like the Latin Kings, Los Trinitarios and MS-13 recruit young kids to do their dirty work. That’s why he thinks that it is important for parents to get involved.
“Laws are not as effective as good parenting,” Salinas said. “It all boils down to the parents. It all boils down to the mother. It all boils down to the father.”
Aubry said Corona and Jackson Heights have organized gangs that commit violence, robberies, sell drugs and intimidate residents. He said having a strong police presence to curb gangs is helpful, but that the community also needs to be part of the process. One way, he said, is for residents to attend their precincts’ Community Council meetings.
“The community needs to work with the police,” Aubry said. “That is a great vehicle to ensure our own safety.”