Comprehensive Five-Point Plan to Improve Access to Social Programs and Promote Alternatives to Gang Activity for At-Risk Youth
Targeted Investments Expand Access to Afterschool and Educational Programming, Enhance Job Training, and Provide Comprehensive Supports for Unaccompanied Minors
State Police Community Assistance Team to Partner with Local Law Enforcement to Identify Gang Activity Hot-Spots
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the fourth proposal of his 2018 State of the State agenda - a comprehensive strategy to engage at-risk youth in social and educational programs as a means of cutting off the recruiting pipeline of MS-13. Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo launched an aggressive campaign to crack down on the violent gang MS-13 on Long Island through targeted community engagement and the deployment of additional law enforcement officials. This comprehensive new initiative will build on the progress achieved, broaden the state's efforts and ensure that young people have better options available to them than joining a gang, including constructive, supportive networks they can turn to for help or guidance.
"MS-13 and the senseless violence it trades in have made New York communities fearful and recruited too many youth to a dead end path of violence and crime and we refuse to let this continue," Governor Cuomo said. "The key to our comprehensive plan to change that is to target gang activity by attacking the root cause - youth recruitment - through programs and outreach to protect vulnerable students from being preyed on, and stop the scourge of MS-13 once and for all."
MS-13 is an international criminal gang that emerged in the United States in the 1980s. They engage in a wide range of criminal activity and are uniquely violent, oftentimes engaging in brutal acts simply to increase the gang's notoriety. Despite violent crime being down dramatically in Suffolk County over the past several years, a recent uptick in violent crime has been traced directly back to the gang. This proposal is the latest piece in a holistic approach laid out by Governor Cuomo to eradicate MS-13 on Long Island.
Through the Governor's multi-pronged approach, New York will implement a comprehensive strategy to provide at-risk youth in Suffolk County with greater access to social programs and alternatives to gang activity. According to the National Institute of Justice, the vast majority of gang members join between the ages of 11 and 15. A study in Fairfax, Virginia showed when the state implemented a strategy focusing on after-school prevention, serious gang activity decreased by 39 percent. Additionally, a study of after-school programs in 12 high-risk California communities found that, among participating youth, vandalism and stealing dropped by two-thirds, violent acts and carrying a concealed weapon fell by more than half, and arrests were cut in half. School discipline, detention, suspensions and expulsions also dropped by a third.
Here in New York, Governor Cuomo is proposing the following program:
- Expand afterschool programs in at-risk areas. Governor Cuomo proposes investing $2 million to extend the Empire State After School Program to schools and nonprofit organizations located in at-risk areas on Long Island identified by the State Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services, Division of State Police, County Executive, and local law enforcement. This expanded initiative will keep young people engaged in sports, music, and other educational programming during after school hours and help deter any potential gang activity or involvement.
- Expand job and vocational training opportunities for at-risk young people. Governor Cuomo proposes creating a special $5 million program within the state's successful New York Youth Jobs voucher program in order to provide individualized job training to young people who are the most at risk from being potentially recruited into gangs. The employment and training program will also provide tax incentives to companies that provide job opportunities for at-risk youth.
- Provide gang prevention education programming to at-risk students. Governor Cuomo proposes a $1.5 million investment over three years in locally run programs targeted at middle and high school students focused on early intervention and violence prevention. As street gangs such as MS-13 often attempt to recruit young people that are middle-school age, the initiative will provide in-school training and support to help students avoid gang recruitment, peer pressure, violence, and delinquent behavior.
- Expand comprehensive support services for at-risk young people, especially immigrant children. MS-13 is infamous for its efforts targeting vulnerable young people, especially immigrant youth without strong family ties and social support. To provide immigrant youth with the resources they need to succeed, Governor Cuomo proposes investing $3 million over three years to support comprehensive case management for at risk young people, with a focus on unaccompanied children entering the United States. This will include medical and mental health support, addiction treatment, trauma and family counseling, language training, and other community support services.
- Deploy a Community Assistance Team. The Governor will deploy a Community Assistance team composed of six State Troopers, three investigators, one senior investigator and one supervisor. This proactive team will partner with local law enforcement and use intelligence derived from the Computer Aided Dispatching Program, the New York State Intelligence Center, and Regional Crime Analysis Centers to identify and engage gang activity hot-spots or respond to departmental and community requests for increased service.
Combatting Gang Violence on Long Island
This comprehensive five-point plan marks the latest effort to eradicate gang violence on Long Island led by Governor Cuomo. In April, the Governor directed the State Police to deploy resources on Long Island to help combat MS-13, including 25 Troopers to conduct high visibility patrols in Brentwood and Central Islip, as well as undercover operations specifically targeting and saturating neighborhoods known to have high levels of gang activity. The State Police also provided six new investigators to the FBI-led Long Island Gang Task Force which comprises more than 30 members of federal, state and local law enforcement partners, and helps agencies combine intelligence and other resources to conduct comprehensive investigations into gang activity.
Most recently, Governor Cuomo announced the deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, consisting of 10 State Troopers. The unit will work to identify early warning signs of gang activity and coordinates closely with the Suffolk County Police Department on an "Educate the Educators" program to help teachers and faculty recognize the early warning signs of gang involvement and recruitment and provide training to students on the dangers of street gangs.