Fitzpatrick and Assembly Minority Call For Tougher Penalties For Gang-Related Crimes, Hazing and Bullying

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa joins push for safer streets and schools
June 10, 2004
Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, right, discusses the Republican conference’s anti-gang, hazing and bullying legislative proposals with Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.
Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R,C-Smithtown), members of the Assembly Minority conference and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa are calling for action on legislative proposals that would protect New Yorkers from gang violence and safeguard students from threats, bullying and hazing in and around schools.

"Outside the home, the single greatest impact on children’s development is likely to be their educational experience," said Assemblyman Fitzpatrick. "The legislative proposals advanced by my fellow Minority conference members, with my full support, will provide the necessary safe learning environments for students to reach their full potential."

A highlight of the legislative proposal is a comprehensive anti-gang bill that will establish new penalties for those individuals who commit gang-related crimes and threaten and coerce others to participate in street-gang activities. The bill also makes it illegal to commit gang offenses within 1,000 feet of schools.

"Despite a dramatic drop in violent crime, cities across New York state continue to be plagued by gangs that frighten and intimidate residents by committing brutal acts of violence against them and their neighbors," said Assembly Minority Leader Charles H. Nesbitt, (R-C, Albion). "Our legislation would give law enforcement the resources necessary to rid our streets of these criminals, once and for all, and would act as a deterrent to make gang membership less attractive to impressionable young people who might otherwise be tempted to go down a very dangerous path."

Assemblyman Fitzpatrick cited statistics provided by the American Bar Association, in which 95 percent of America’s biggest cities, and 88 percent of smaller cities, suffer from gang-related crime and that up to 90 percent of gang members are juveniles.

"The anti-gang legislation put forth today will help law enforcement, prosecutors and organizations such as the Guardian Angels eliminate gang-related activity and keep New York state’s neighborhoods safe from these types of crimes," said Mr. Sliwa. "I commend the Assembly Minority conference for putting this legislation forward and urge the entire Legislature to act on this important bill."

Mr. Sliwa is the co-host of a popular WABC morning radio show, "Curtis and Kuby," in New York City. The Guardian Angels is a non-profit, all-volunteer crime-fighting organization that started in 1979 with 13 members patrolling New York City streets. The group has grown to include 25 chapters throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan and Brazil. Known for their familiar red beret, the Guardian Angels offer many programs to help combat neighborhood crime and educate teenagers on the dangers that lurk in cyberspace.

The proposal includes a measure that would increase penalties for hazing. Under current New York state law, the most severe penalty a person convicted of hazing can receive is a Class A misdemeanor. The Assembly Minority bill would significantly increase punishments, with sentences of up to seven years in prison (Class D felony) for the most serious cases.

In a 2001 National Center for Education Statistics report, 8 percent of students said they had been bullied at school in the last six months, up from 5 percent in 1999. A majority of students said they were more afraid of being victimized at school than out of school.

To provide further protections for students, teachers and school personnel, the Assembly Minority conference would also impose harsher penalties for bullying and harassment in and around New York’s schools.

The dominant presence of gangs in major metropolitan areas has caused many people to perceive gangs as purely an urban problem. However, there has been a dramatic increase in gang activity in smaller cities and suburban areas.

The Assembly Minority conference recently created the Urban Crime Task Force to further study criminal activity that is plaguing New York cities, including gang-related crime, and plans to come up with additional solutions to these problems.

The Assembly Minority anti-gang, hazing and bullying package:

ANTI-GANG LEGISLATION (A. 9362, Nesbitt):
  • Establishes penalties for those who commit crimes as members of a street gang – Those convicted of a misdemeanor would receive an additional Class A misdemeanor sentence for gang participation, an additional Class E felony sentence for non-violent felony convictions and an additional Class D felony for violent first-degree felonies
  • Makes it a crime to commit a gang-related offense within 1,000 feet of a school - Class E felony to Class C felony, depending on the threat level
  • Makes it a crime to physically threaten or otherwise coerce others into participating in a gang, including on or near school grounds – Class E felony to Class C felony, depending on the level of threat.

ANTI-HAZING AND BULLYING LEGISLATION (A. 9361, Nesbitt):
  • Raises the penalty for the crime of hazing – for all levels, with up to seven years in prison (Class D felony) for the most serious offenses
  • Creates the new crime of failing to report a hazing incident to a law enforcement official – a Class B misdemeanor
  • Strengthens state laws against bullying and harassment of students, teachers and other school personnel.