Violent crime in NYC is down to “historic lows”, according to NPR. But the suburbs outside of the city are experiencing a different trend. Towns like Middletown and Newburgh are experiencing higher than average violent crime rates, and it’s due—at least in part—to gang activity.
“These aren’t the drug addicted street urchins who are being swept up there for statistical purposes,” says Orange County District Attorney Frank Phillips. “These are the real movers and shakers behind the level of violence that’s being committed upon our citizens throughout the county.”
Many of the gang members said to be moving upstate are those who spent some time in prison and see the smaller towns as a place to lay low, and subsequently a place to set up shop.
Last month a task force swept down on Middletown, 90 minutes north of the city, to arrest more than 24 suspected Bloods gang members. They stand accused of drug trafficking, conspiracy, and racketeering after bringing cocaine, marijuana and heroin into the smaller town.
Citizens in these communities are used to leaving their doors unlocked and not worrying about walking alone after dark. But that’s all changing. Ruben Rivera has lived here for more than 20 years and has raised 9 children in the town. Things have changed, he says. He was mugged at knife point a few years back and now keeps his youngest child in the house after dark.
According to local police, the gang members aren’t too quiet about their affiliations either. “Whereas in the past it was somewhat, I guess you could say underground, now they’re a little more open, more willing to display colors and things of that nature,” says Lt. Greg Metakes with the Middletown Police Department.
The small towns have collaborated with federal law enforcement to develop task forces in hopes of stopping the gangs in their tracks. They’ve been using wiretaps and cameras mounted on telephone poles. Many of the people they are after have served time, opening them up to far lengthier prison sentences if arrested and convicted again.
Sometimes, in these gang sweeps that occur across the country, innocent parties are swept up. Someone who is friends with one gang member or even has family in a gang can easily be caught up and charged along with those who are actually guilty of criminal offenses.
Not everyone who is arrested and accused of being involved in a gang is, in fact, a gang member. If you are accused of a drug crime or weapons offense and you need assistance proving your case, contact our offices today.
Who you associate with shouldn’t cause you to be labeled as a criminal.