Bill cracks down on local gangs

By Dan Jacobson

Gov. Jim Edgar recently signed a House Bill that will impose harsher penalties for gang-related crimes which take place in the 35th District.

State Sen. J. Bradley Burzynski sponsored the legislation to try and stop the problem of gangs in DeKalb. “We hope that this legislation will be a deterrent for those young people considering joining a gang and an incentive for current gang members to leave behind their criminal affiliations,” Burzynski said.

“The courts and the law enforcement officials need assistance in their fight against gang crimes, which is rapidly rising in our area and throughout the state. When House Bill 122 goes into effect on Jan. 1,1994, gang members should realize that they will be facing tougher penalties for their crimes,” he said.

“There have been gang problems in Rochelle, Rockford and Aurora,” he said. “We have to recognize that it’s definitely coming our way.”

States Attorney Micheal Coghlan said in 1990 there were 40 identified gang members in the DeKalb area. By 1992 it rose to 150 identified gang members.

Coghlan said two things occured that caused the increase. The first was the ability to identify gang members improved. The second was new members moving into the area and joining the already existing members in recruiting from DeKalb residents.

Coghlan said there are several ways an individual can be identified as a gang member. They consist of self admission to the police of being a gang member, association with someone who is a known gang member, gang colors, tatoos and gang jewelry.

If an individual who is a known gang member commits a crime alone, it can be considered gang related, Coghlan said.

“I am of the firm opinion that gang association causes individuals to cause street crimes,” Coghlan said.

Two gangs that allegedly have members in the DeKalb area are the ‘Vice Lords’ whose colors are black and red and the ‘Gangster Disciples’ with the colors black and blue, Coghlan said.

Burzynski said the new bill will provide stiffer penalties toward gang related offenses. “The penalties will vary on the type of crime. What this bill does is elevate (the penalties) and give the judges more room to make them stiffer,” he said.

DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow said he supports the new bill. “The problem is not as bad as Chicago or the suburbs or Aurora but we definitely need to tighten up (on gangs),” he said.