February 6, 2008
NY LAW: RECRUITING GANG MEMBERS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS
By: Susan Price, Principal Legislative Analyst
You asked us to summarize a recent New York law that targets gang recruitment activities in and around schools.
We did not find a New York law that targets gang recruitment at schools. But a bill currently before the New York Assembly's Committee on Codes makes criminal street gang recruitment on school grounds a felony punishable by imprisonment for three to seven years (AB 8155, copy enclosed and available online at http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bin=A08155&sh=t .
The bill takes effect 60 days after passage. It incorporates some recommendations made by the state Commission of Investigation in its May 2006 report Combating Gang Activity in New York: Suppression, Intervention, Prevention. We enclose a copy of the report, which is posted online at http://www.sic.state.ny.us.
CRIMINAL STREET GANG RECRUITMENT ON SCHOOL GROUNDS
The bill makes it a class D felony for a person to coerce, solicit, recruit, or induce another person to join or remain a member of a criminal street gang on school grounds. It creates the same criminal liability for those who conspire to do any of the activities listed above. By law, class D felonies are punishable by imprisonment for three to seven years (NY Penal Law § 70.00(2)). The actor need not be a gang member to be prosecuted for this crime.
The bill also establishes definitions for the terms “criminal street gang,” “school grounds,” “criminal street gang member”, and “criminal street gang activity.”
Criminal Street Gang. The bill defines “criminal street gang” as any ongoing organization, association, or group of three or more persons, whether formal or informal, that has:
1. the commission of one or more criminal acts as one of its primary activities;
2. an identifiable name, sign, or symbol; and
3. members who individually or collectively engage in or have engaged in criminal street gang activity.
School Grounds. Under the bill, “school grounds” means:
1. in, on, or within buildings, structures, athletic playing fields, playgrounds, or land within the boundaries of a public or private, parochial, elementary, intermediate, junior high, vocational, or high school or
2. any sidewalk, street, parking lot, park, playground, store, or restaurant that is within (a) 1,000 feet of a school's boundary or (b) 1,000 feet of parking areas that are located within 1,000 feet of a school's boundary.
Criminal Street Gang Member. The bill also defines “criminal street gang member,” although there are no criminal penalties associated with this status. This is a person who falls into at least two of the following categories:
1. admitted street gang members;
2. identified by a documented, reliable informant as being a gang member;
3. living in or frequenting a particular street gang area, adopting its style of dress or use of hand signals or tattoos, and associating with known gang members;
4. having been arrested more than once in the company of known gang members for offenses that are consistent with usual criminal gang activity;
5. having been identified as a criminal street gang member by physical evidence, including photographs or other documentation;
6. having been stopped four or more times in the company of known gang members; and
7. having been identified as a gang member by other law enforcement agencies or family members.
Criminal Street Gang Activity. The bill also defines “criminal street gang activity,” although it does not criminalize this behavior. Under the bill, criminal street gang activity consists of the commission or attempted commission or solicitation of two or more criminal acts, or conspiracies in furtherance of these purposes, that:
1. were committed on separate occasions within a five-year period,
2. were neither isolated incidents nor so closely connected or related in time or circumstance as to constitute a single crime under existing law; and
3. further a street gang by being (a) a common scheme or plan or (b) committed, solicited, requested, importuned, or intentionally aided by a gang member acting with the criminal intent required for the commission of the crime.
GANG FREE SCHOOL ZONE SIGNS
Finally, the bill authorizes political subdivisions to erect or authorize others to erect gang free school zone signs on school grounds right-of-ways when the appropriate school authority requests this.