“We think that along with this gang bill, we'll have a greater chance of saving more lives and more young people,” says Victor Saunders of “Pathways to Peace”, an organization which helps combat gang and other violent activity in the City of Rochester.
According to Rochester Police, there are currently 60 gangs operating on city streets on any given day. The gangs represent 813 members and RPD reports 119 known crimes from July to October 2007 are due to gang activity.
“These gang members hang outside of our high school and they try to bring kids in. A lot of teenagers, adolescents, that are lonely, searching for themselves,” says Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
“If you go back about two or three weeks ago, we had two cases going on in state court, one of those cases couldn't be proven because 13 and 14 year old witnesses refused to testify. The 14 year old got up on the stand...he'd obviously been beaten up recently,” says Mike Green, Monroe County District Attorney who says witness protection is a priority which needs more funding in the DA’s office in order to help take more gangs off the street.
If enacted into law, the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act would make recruiting gang members a criminal offense as well as establish “High-Intensity Gang Activity Areas” (HIGAA). Cities which fit the criteria for HIGAA would be given more funding;
Police have taken some high profile gangs off the streets such as “Murder Unit”, “Thurston Zoo”, “DIPSET” and “
“There's the "don't snitch" attitude but there's also real fears about retaliation,” says Joan Roby-Davison, executive director of “Group 14621”, a community association located in the heart of
“I don't even attempt to make sense of what they mean and don't mean I just take pictures and send them off to the police and to Pathways to Peace. We certainly are seeing more police presence. I've heard from some residents that they know it's not forever but that it's kind of giving people a breathing space. “
If the act passes, it will not only given more only for police presence, it will also provide money to community groups such as “14621” to help prevent kids from joining gangs.