Operation gains support to combat gang-related activity
September 6, 2012
Operation Gang Up continues to build momentum. A fourth community forum has been scheduled as a bi-partisan effort to combat gang activity mushrooms.
At the same time, a website is being developed as part of the plan to focus attention on the gangs and stymie their activities.
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Hazleton, and state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, have scheduled "Law Enforcement and You: A Community Partnership Against Gangs" for 6 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Arthur Street Elementary School Auditorium, 424 E. Ninth St., Hazleton.
The event, the fourth held to date, is free and open to the public. More than 600 people attended the first three events, which followed the release of a study from the Department of Justice on the growing problem of gangs in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The earlier discussions have focused on what members of the community can do to help battle gang activity, what can be done in area schools combat gang activity and how to begin developing a community action plan against gangs.
Andy Mehalshick of WBRE-TV will moderate a panel discussion among Stephanie Salavantis, Luzerne County district attorney; Agent Kevin Wevodau and Unit Chief Peter Jurack of the FBI; Detective Chris Orozco, Hazleton Police Department, Trooper Kent Lane of the Pennsylvania State Police; Robert Maguire, chairman, Lackawanna County Gang Task Force; and former U.S. Marshal Gary Shovlin.
Those attending can ask questions and offer suggestions on what steps they can take in their community to help reduce gang activity.
The website Operationgangup.com is under construction and various sub-committees have been meeting this summer.
The Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development led by Teri Ooms is providing administrative support.
Yudichak has noted that drug activity crosses municipal boundary lines and he is urging cooperation between municipalities. Just as the gangs use the interstate and turnpike highways for movement, he argues that citizens and police along the same corridors can work together to combat gangs.
In the past, Yudichak has attempted to get communities to create regional police departments. While those efforts have not succeeded, he continues to urge cooperation.
Anti-gang legislation introduced by Northeastern Pennsylvania lawmakers received a boost when the Senate Republican leader and two colleagues unveiled their own anti-gang legislation.
Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Chester, and Sens. John Rafferty, R-Collegeville, and Ted Erickson, R-Drexel Hill, propose creating a new criminal offense of "recruiting gang members" and toughening penalties for specific crimes involving violence or drugs that benefit the interests of criminal street gangs.
They developed the bills in cooperation with Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan, who is prosecuting individuals for the fatal stabbing of two rival gang leaders. Yudichak said anti-gang legislation will get more attention in Harrisburg with the three GOP senators at the forefront.
For information on the Sept. 27 event, contact Barletta's office toll-free at 1-855-241-5144 or Yudichak's office at 570-883-4690.
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