2007-04-11 / Features

Gang Menace In Schools Addressed By Peralta Bill

Legislation to curb gang activities and recruitment in the community and in schools has been introduced by Assemblymember Jose Peralta.

The Corona lawmaker said his bill is also aimed at removing New York's dubious distinction of being one of the few states that does not provide law enforcement and the courts with additional tools to combat gangs.

Recently, Peralta and Assemblymember Peter Rivera, a former police officer and federal DEA agent, were joined by law enforcement representatives and district attorneys to demand that Albany take the growing gang problem seriously.

The lawmakers, members of the Assembly Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force, said their legislation is aimed especially at the gang problem in schools.

From this perspective, the Peralta/Rivera bill would create "Gang Free School Zones" around the more than 6,400 schools in the state. Criminal gang activity within these zones would be punishable by three to seven years in prison.

Meeting outside the headquarters of the Department of Education in Manhattan, Peralta addressed the group and declared: "We are here to say that if you are evil enough to threaten the life of a child, if you are evil enough to interfere with their education, and if you are evil enough to place in danger the future of our communities, you ought to be punished in a very special way."

Rivera added, "Communities throughout our state are being held hostage by unchecked gang activity and our schools have become ground zero for their acts of violence, intimidation and recruitment."

- John Toscano

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