Wrapup: Crackdown on Gang Recruitment

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - During the 2009 session, Nevada
lawmakers cracked down on gang members trying to recruit minors and
required school districts to establish policies barring criminal
gang activity on school grounds.

SB142, approved by legislators and signed by Gov. Jim Gibbons,
criminalizes recruitment of minors into gangs, making it a
low-level felony. Convicted offenders could be imprisoned for one
to four years and face fines of up to $5,000.

The measure states that adult gang members who use or threaten
violence against minors to coerce them to join, remain in or rejoin
a gang can be convicted under the new law, set to take effect Oct.
1.

Frank Adams of the Nevada Sheriffs' and Chiefs' Association says
SB142 fills a gap in state law and will help reduce gang member
numbers in the long term. He adds that adult gang members who
damage or threaten to damage property of minors and those they know
also can be punished.

"This gives us a tool against old guys from recruiting young
kids by forcing or threatening them to become part of a criminal
gang," Adams said. "So far, it's perpetual and now we are into
generations of kids whose fathers got them into it. This gives kids
a chance to do something else."

Mark Wier of Mesquite, president of the Virgin Valley Community
Education Advisory Board, came up with the idea for SB142 after
gang activity concerns were expressed by parents and school
officials. He said about 30 states have enacted similar
legislation.

"This goes to the heart of it," Wier said. "If we are able to
take these gang members who go out and actively recruit the kids
and get them away from the kids, the kids have better chances of
staying away or getting out of gangs."

The new law also helps to deal with fears that youngsters feel
when pressured to join gangs, Wier said, adding, "There are high
school and elementary school kids who have to deal with it and
there is a real fear that if they don't join will get beat up."

With an eye toward the 2011 Legislature, Wier said he would like
to come back and tell lawmakers that harsher punishments are
needed.

"It's a good start," Wier said of SB142. "I foresee coming
back to look at amending this to increasing its felony
classification."

Legislators also passed and Gibbons signed AB154, which mandates
that school districts establish policies barring criminal gang
activity on school grounds.

School district trustees already can establish such policies,
but a mandate is needed because no part of Nevada is immune to gang
activity, said Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, who
sponsored AB154.

"Sometimes school districts get a little complacent. Things
might feel comfortable if nothing happens for a while," said
Munford, who spent 36 years teaching in Las Vegas-area schools.
"Then something happens and then what?"

It's up to individual school district boards to decide what
policies against gang activity should be set, but Munford said that
the policies "should be of some substance and credibility, not
things just like guest speakers."

Policies such as banning clothing affiliated with gangs are
already in place, but Munford thinks policies need to be expanded
more and that incoming teachers need to be educated about how to
prevent gang activity from taking place.

"We can't go to sleep on this. We've got to keep on top of
them," Munford, referring to educators and school board members.


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