Gang Violence Prevention Unit, Consisting of 10 State Troopers, to Work With Teachers and Administrators to Identify Early Warning Signs of Gang Activity.
Albany, NY - September 13, 2017 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, consisting of 10 State Troopers, to the top 10 high-risk Suffolk County schools that currently serve as ground zero for gang activity and recruitment. The new unit will work to stop gang violence before it starts and identify early warning signs of gang activity. The Gang Violence Prevention Unit will also coordinate closely with the Suffolk County Police Department to launch an "Educate the Educators" program, which will help teachers and faculty recognize the early warning signs of gang involvement and recruitment. In addition, the State Police will roll out a gang awareness curriculum directly to students to teach them about the dangers of gangs and foster a relationship between students and police.
Governor Cuomo made the announcement on the one year-anniversary of the tragic murders of high-school students Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas by MS-13. The new initiative comes on the heels of the Governor's efforts to expand access to state intelligence and law enforcement assets in the fight against MS-13. In April, the Governor launched expanded patrols in Brentwood and Central Islip, providing an additional 25 State Troopers, and added six investigators to the FBI-led Long Island Gang Task Force.
"Our number one job in government is to keep all New Yorkers, and especially our children, safe. By partnering with our schools, we will be better prepared to stop gang activity before it starts and end this heinous cycle of violence," Governor Cuomo said. "This is just one step in our ongoing efforts to eradicate the threat of MS-13 and ensure that every student remains on the path to a bright future."
The Gang Violence Prevention Unit represents a blitz attack on the scourge of MS-13 on Long Island, and it will immediately designate 10 Troopers to work with 10 schools in six targeted districts: Brentwood, Central Islip, Huntington, Longwood, South Country Central and Wyandanch. The designated schools have been identified by law enforcement as having the highest concentration of gang violence and vulnerability to recruitment.
Educate the Educators
The Gang Violence Prevention Unit will coordinate closely with the Suffolk County Police Department to launch an "Educate the Educators" partnership that will provide resources to administrators, counselors, principals and teachers. The program will help teachers be the first line of defense to stop gang violence before it starts and intervene in the life of a child who may vulnerable to going down the wrong path.
Prevention officers will inform educators on MS-13 identifiers, including where the gang is concentrated, how they recruit, and key reasons why young people join gangs. They will also provide educators with specialized training to identify the warning signs of gang activity, including: withdrawing from family, not showing up for school, keeping secrets, or breaking the rules.
Gang Awareness Training
State Police will also roll out a gang awareness curriculum for students in districts most at-risk for MS-13 victimization and recruitment. The curriculum will focus on the dangers of joining gangs, provide students advice on how to respond to pressure to join gangs and teach them that they can leave gangs and how to do so. The program also aims to foster a relationship between students and the police so that they are comfortable confiding in the officers about gang activity at the school and can help deter others from joining gangs.
Senator Majority Leader John Flanagan said, "Every student deserves to feel safe and secure, but the MS-13 violence is threatening the safety of our schools. This new initiative will stop that violence at the source by providing new resources to schools to curb recruitment and protect vulnerable students. I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo put this initiative in place and continue doing all we can to keep our communities safe."
Assemblymember Phil Ramos said, "Gang violence is a heartbreaking and unacceptable scourge that has no place on Long Island or in in our state. Leaders from different parts of the community are coming together to keep New Yorkers and Long Islanders safe. Under the leadership of Governor Cuomo, we are stepping up help schools and communities put an end to gang violence."
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, "Police Commissioner Tim Sini and the law enforcement professionals of the Suffolk County Police Department have taken aggressive action that has already resulted in the conviction of more than a dozen gang members intent on tearing our communities apart. By working together and with the resources that Governor Cuomo has directed today, we will dismantle their efforts at the core of our educational system."
Suffolk County Legislator Monica Martinez said, "Governor Cuomo's initiative will help bring peace of mind to parents in our community. As MS-13 continues to spread fear and violence on Long Island, we are fighting back by empowering our educators and leaders to help intervene early and keep more young people safe. Thank you, Governor Cuomo, for your work to strengthen and support our community."
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "We remain committed to eradicating gang violence in our communities and the criminal activity that is associated with it. This collaborative prevention effort is an opportunity for us to effectively educate teachers, as well as students, before they are drawn into a life of crime and gang violence. Together we will do what it takes to protect our most vulnerable and to keep our communities safe from the dangers of gang activity."
Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said, "As we continue to make progress in eradicating gangs from our communities in Suffolk County, this program will help offer at-risk children the attention and guidance they need to avoid the path that leads to joining a gang. I look forward to joining forces with Governor Cuomo and my partners in law enforcement to ensure that Long Island's children are empowered to live a healthy and productive life."
Combatting Gang Violence on Long Island
This state-county partnership is the latest piece of an ongoing effort to eradicate gang violence on Long Island that Governor Cuomo launched earlier this year. In April, the Governor directed the State Police to deploy resources on Long Island to help combat criminal activity by MS-13. The initiative included deploying 25 state 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, in an effort to deter crimes and thwart recruitment activities.
In addition, State Police provided six new investigators to the FBI-led Long Island Gang Task Force. The Task Force, which comprises more than 30 members of federal, state and local law enforcement partners, helps agencies combine intelligence and other resources to conduct comprehensive investigations into gang activity. The FBI has similar task forces in Albany, Buffalo, Hudson Valley, Westchester County and New York City.
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 of violence merely 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 initiative is one of many to come as part of a comprehensive strategy to eradicate MS-13 on Long Island.