Senate approves gang crackdown bill
HARRISBURG - A bill to crack down on criminal gang activity in Pennsylvania was approved 45-3 Wednesday in the Senate.
The measure would create a new criminal offense of recruiting gang members which can involve such actions as causing physical harm or using threats and intimidation to force an individual to join or remain in a gang. The offense would carry a tougher penalty if that person is under 16.
Pennsylvania needs to enact a law specifically targeting gangs so law enforcement personnel have the resources to go after gang activities, said Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Nanticoke, in a floor speech.
He cited the recent beating of a teenage girl in Hazleton as part of a gang ritual as one reason the legislation is needed. The bill will make gang members think twice before recruiting vulnerable young teens, added Yudichak.
The measure directs the state Commission on Sentencing to establish tougher sentences for a crime of violence or drug trafficking that benefits a gang.
Yudichak, Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, Chester, and other lawmakers from Northeast Pennsylvania are involved in a bipartisan effort to address this issue this fall. All senators representing Northeast Pennsylvania voted for this bill.
The Senate has now added broader amendments to a House-approved bill dealing with aspects of gang activity. The measure goes back to the House for concurrence. The Legislature has one final voting session week scheduled for the year during the third week of this month.