Press Release

With Up To 50,000 Gang Members In New York, Gillibrand Announces New Legislative Agenda To Combat Gang Activity

Jun 16, 2010

Washington, DC – With as many as 50,000 gang members in New York, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is announcing a new legislative agenda to combat gang activity, keep at-risk youth out of gangs, and keep our communities safe and economy growing. Senator Gillibrand’s plan increases resources for law enforcement to fight gang activity, toughens penalties for gang-related offenses, expands access to effective mentoring programs to keep children out of gangs, and brings community leaders together to develop the right strategies to fight gang activity in local communities across New York.

“We can never allow the lure of gangs to surpass opportunities for our children to grow and achieve their full potential,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Too many communities are seeing increasing gang activity and the violent crime that comes with it. It’s time to fight back with better resources for our law enforcement, tougher penalties to lock up offenders, positive role models to guide our children to success, and unite communities to keep our families safe.”

READ the full report estimating the amount of gang members in New York State.

  • In New York City, there as many as 22,000 gang members.
  • In Western New York, there are as many as 4,000 gang members.
  • In the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region, there are as many as 3,000 gang members.
  • In Central New York, there are as many as 4,000 gang members.
  • In the Southern Tier, there are as many as 2,000 gang members.
  • In the Capital Region, there are as many as 3,500 gang members.
  • In the North Country, there are as many as 500 gang members.
  • In the Hudson Valley, there are as many as 4,500 gang members.
  • On Long Island, there are as many as 5,000 gang members.

Gang Prevention and Intervention
Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the Youth PROMISE Act to help keep children from joining gangs and fight gang-related crime. The legislation would draw on recommendations from a broad range of community leaders and experts to develop effective policies to prevent children from joining gangs and break up existing gangs.

Specifically, communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges would initiate a coordinated response from law enforcement, court services, schools, social services, health and mental health providers, and community-based service organizations, including faith-based organizations. 

These key players will form a council to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies.  These strategies will be targeted at young people who are involved in, or at risk of becoming involved in, gangs or the juvenile or criminal justice system to redirect them toward productive and law-abiding alternatives. 

The Youth PROMISE Act would also enhance state and local law enforcement efforts regarding youth and gang violence. 

Keeping Children Out of Gangs with Better Access to Youth Mentoring
Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the JUMP Act to provide better youth mentoring services to help keep children out of gangs. The legislation authorizes the Department of Justice to continue funding for quality mentoring services, arming communities with the resources they need to work with young people in some of the nation’s most vulnerable areas.

The JUMP Program was America’s first federal program to provide mentoring for at-risk youth, funding non-profit organizations to implement one-on-one mentoring between responsible adults and at-risk youth – proven effective to keep children in school, out of gangs, off drugs and alcohol, and on a path to success.

Studies show that more than 17 million young people in America could benefit from better mentoring, but less than 3 million have access to a mentor, leaving a large majority of America’s at-risk youth with nowhere to turn for positive role models and guidance.

Arm Law Enforcement with Resources to Fight Gang Activity, Drug Crime
Senator Gillibrand is cosponsoring the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2009. The legislation toughens penalties for gang-related offenses, creates High Intensity Gang Activity Areas (HIGAAs) structured to target areas where gang activity is prevalent, authorizes federal grants through the Office of Justice Programs for gang prevention and intervention, initiates a national commission to develop effective gang and crime prevention strategies, and authorizes the Attorney General to expand the Project Safe Neighborhoods Program and the Safe Streets Program.

Additionally, the legislation launches an anti-heroin media campaign to educate the public about the dangers of heroin use, and the drug’s ability to destroy lives, families and entire communities.

Restore Funding for Safe and Drug Free Schools
Senator Gillibrand is fighting to restore funding cuts to state grants administered through the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Last year, the Obama Administration was forced to eliminate grants for state governments that funded anti-drug programs in local school districts – a total of $295 million annually.

Senator Gillibrand is gathering support from Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee to restore this funding in the FY2011 Appropriations Bill. 

Maintain Funding for Drug Free Communities Grant Program
Senator Gillibrand is also lobbying Senators Durbin and Collins to keep funding for the Drug Free Communities Grant Program for FY2011 – and fight a $9.5 million proposed funding cut for the program that provides community-based anti-drug coalitions to keep children, families and communities safe.

Fully Fund the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Program
Senator Gillibrand is lobbying Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Susan Collins (R-MA), Chairman and Ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, to fully fund HIDTA in FY2011 – and fight a proposed 12 percent funding cut.

The HIDTA program gives local law enforcement agencies the resources they need to mount coordinated anti-drug efforts. Last year, Senator Gillibrand worked with Senator Schumer to secure HIDTA funding to fight drug crime in Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties.