Today, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. hosted a roundtable with New Jersey law enforcement, elected officials, housing officials, members of the boards of education of various municipalities, and community leaders to discuss gang prevention in the state. Stakeholders addressed past successful actions as well as the state of affairs as described in the 2010 Street Gang Survey.
Senator Menendez said: "Gang violence is a serious concern in our communities and we must continue to work together to address the problem. Gangs destroy our youth and our neighborhoods, and while I am pleased with the results of our efforts there is still much work to be done. That's why I am reintroducing comprehensive legislation in the U.S. Senate to effectively reduce gang activity and help keep our communities safe."
Congressman Pallone said: "The effects of gang violence play out in the headlines on a daily basis, but the misperception about gangs is that they affect only certain areas, only certain schools or certain people. Gang recruitment and related violence have far-reaching effects, which is why it is important for communities to come to the table as we have today to tackle this problem."
The 2010 Street Gang Survey discussed at the roundtable showed that while some of the most notable gangs are still active, many less-known gangs have disappeared. However, one-third of municipalities reported that gang activity had increased in the last 12 months.
Long Branch High School Superintendent Joseph Ferraina said: "Gang activity can derail young student's lives. Efforts that promote prevention and deal with at-risk youth so they can be directed away from gang activity are appreciated. Legislation by Menendez and Pallone addresses all aspects of gang activity and violence; I look forward to its quick passage and implementation.
Menendez's and Pallone's legislation, which is being introduced this week, calls for funding educational and after school mentoring programs, the creation of municipal alliances to coordinate anti-gang efforts; an avenue to get first offenders back on track; monitoring of at-risk youth; and assisting ex-offenders with a way back into society.
The Fighting Gangs and Empowering Youth Act of 2011 also includes:
* Authorizes the Attorney General to make grants to public or nonprofit entities for projects targeting at-risk youth and juvenile offenders, ages 11 to 19 years, to combat gang activity.
* Reauthorizes the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, the National Coordinator Initiative, the Gang Resistance Education and Training Projects Program, and certain after school programs.
* Authorizes the Secretary of Education to award grants to nonprofit organizations that assist in establishing mentoring programs for children, and assist public schools in gang prevention.
* Authorizes the Secretary of HUD to make grants to public housing agencies and owners of federally assisted low-income housing for use in eliminating gang-related crime.
* Authorizes the AG to award grants to local entities that assist communities in developing programs that target at-risk youth and juvenile offenders ages 11-19 through municipal alliances.
* Increases funding for the National Youth Gang Survey.
* Authorizes mentoring grants to nonprofit organizations for offender reentry services.
Recidivism Reduction and Reentry Assistance
* Reauthorizes the Adult and Juvenile Offender State and Local Reentry Demonstration Projects to improve the transition from prison to community reentry by facilitating collaboration among corrections, schools, and employment service sectors, and by providing funding for programs that assist offenders trying to get out of gangs.
* Requires the AG and other federal agencies, in collaboration with local governments, to establish an interagency task force on federal programs and activities relating to offenders' community reentry.
* Authorizes the Secretary of HHS to make available to states recommendations regarding the role of child protective services at the time of the arrest of an individual, and to establish necessary services for the preservation of families that have been impacted by the incarceration of a family member.
* Authorizes the AG to make grants to state and local governments to increase police presence, and to improve cooperative efforts between law enforcement and the community to address gang problems and to enhance public safety. Gives preferential consideration to applicants who coordinate their efforts to create municipal alliances.
* Authorizes the hiring of additional forensic examiners to help combat gang activity.
* Establishes a maximum sentence of 30 years (unless the crime committed has life imprisonment as its maximum penalty) for persons who engage, conspire, or attempt to engage in a pattern of criminal gang activity; or who employ, use, command, counsel, persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any individual to commit, cause to commit, or facilitate the commission of, a predicate gang crime.
* Creates penalties for persons who recruit, employ, solicit, induce, command, or cause another person to be or remain as a member of a criminal street gang, or conspire to do so, with the intent to cause that person to participate in a predicate gang crime.