Groups of kids emulating city gangs are banding together in the village of East Syracuse. Resident concerns prompted government action, and after a public hearing held Aug. 20, the village board unanimously passed a local law to fight a potential problem before it gets out of hand.
Since last year, there has been a noticeable increase in gang-related behavior, said Danny Liedka, mayor of East Syracuse.
"We noticed a number of kids wearing the same color shirts and the same color bandanas escalate," he said. "I actually went around, along with some other police officers, just to talk to the kids and confirm that there were some gangs, startup gangs."
Are they affiliated with the ones in the city of Syracuse?
"Not necessarily," Liedka said. But he stressed that the reason for the local law is to prevent that, and more, from happening. "We figured we'd do something right away."
The new legislation, which prevents loitering for the purpose of aiding gang activity, gives the police an edge on crime prevention -- it adds another level of insulation, making it easier to hold those involved in gangs accountable.
"It allows us to do our job even more effectively," said Salvatore Stassi, an officer with the East Syracuse Police Department.
The main problem related with loitering involves the intimidation factor.
"The gangs are intimidating kids into joining, harassing them when they walk down the street," Liedka said. As for crimes such as robberies, the village hasn't experienced any so far as a result of gang violence.
"At this point, what we do with this warrant is stop [gangs] from congregating," said East Syracuse Police Chief Peter Vasiloff.
Residents are encouraged to call 911 as soon as they suspect threatening behavior among groups of kids.
"Be very vigilant about what you see and what you're hearing," Stassi said.