Fatal stabbbings in Chester prompt push to crack down on gang recruiters

    Pennsylvania lawmakers have gang violence in their sights with a new proposal local law enforcement officials say is purposefully narrow.

    The proposal establishes escalating punishments for recruiting people to criminal gangs.

    Simple soliciting would be a misdemeanor.

    Recruiters who use threats and assault would be charged with felonies, with higher penalties for those who target juveniles.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan says the legislation is meant to prevent people from joining gangs as teenagers, and moving up to major gangs as they get older.

    “We look at our gangs and we see junior varsity gangs. Gangs that would be ripe for the national-level gangs to come in and try to get their hooks into them,” Hogan said. “We are trying to prevent that from happening.”

    Two fatal stabbings in December jarred Chester County awake to the problem of local gang activity, especially among young people.

    Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, who is sponsoring the proposal, said it took nearly eight months to announce because the officials involved didn’t want a knee-jerk response to the December crimes.

    Pileggi, R-Delaware, said the legislation, which hasn’t been introduced yet, is the product of a slow and deliberate search for the appropriate tool to combat the kind of gang activity that led to the two murders.

    The Chester County district attorney’s office called the December stabbing deaths the result of an ambush by members of a gang that rivaled the gang of the two victims.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal