Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Menendez - Ledger - Proposes gang crack-down

Published in the Star-Ledger Blog, Monday, September 16, 2006 - 16:43

Candidate proposes gang crack-down

Posted by The Star-Ledger October 16, 2006 16:43

Calling it one of the nation's top priorities, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez on Monday unveiled a proposal to invest billions of dollars in tackling the growing problem of gang violence across the nation.

"Our challenge is to make sure we don't lose another generation to the streets," Menendez said during a press conference at the Rutgers School of Law in Newark. "It's not limited to the Newarks and Trentons...It is a problem that affects all of us and its solution will take a commitment from all of us."

Menendez, who is in the Democratic minority in Congress and locked in a tight race with Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr., said the federal government has failed to take a comprehensive approach in reducing gang violence. Meanwhile, he said, the problem has grown from cities to suburbs and rural areas.

"Young people are being recruited into gangs instead of jobs," he said.

The Senator proposed investing more money into existing after-school, anti-drug, job training and mentoring programs, and creating new grant programs to put more police on the street to fight gangs and provide public housing authorities new money to counter the problem. He also proposed promoting programs that hire former prisoners and helping them with transitional housing to cut down on recidivism.

And he called for tougher penalties to crack down on gangs, saying the U.S. Sentencing Commission should review and possibly amend sentencing guidelines. He said his package would require the commission to establish guidelines for juvenile gang members to be tried as adults for violent crimes.

Menendez did not put a total price tag on his initiative, but said it would require billions of dollars in new spending. He said it could be paid for by closing tax loopholes and scrapping $6 billion in tax breaks for the oil industry.

Jill Hazelbaker, Kean's campaign spokeswoman, called Menendez's initiative "more ridiculous rhetoric."

Contributed by Jeff Whelan

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Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.