MS-13 on Long Island: Cuomo announces $18.5 million investment in gang fight

BRENTWOOD, Long Island (WABC) -- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday the allocation of $18.5 million in next year's state budget to cut off the rise of MS-13 gang involvement on Long Island.

Cuomo says just locking them up is not the answer.

"Let's stop the young people from getting caught in the gang pipeline to begin with," he said.

At a news conference in Brentwood, he said the solution is to stop the recruitment.

"New York will not tolerate the monstrous acts and fear that MS-13 has brought to our communities, and by focusing on educating and protecting our young residents, we are furthering our efforts to drive out these violent criminals," Cuomo said. "The launch of this comprehensive plan invests in critical programming to help stomp out gang recruitment, engage young men and women during and after school, and help protect New Yorkers from being victimized, as we work to eliminate MS-13's presence in this state for good."

He announced legislation that will give $18.5 million to help in the fight against MS-13, investing in community programs as well as social, educational and mental health services.

"We are committed to eradicating MS-13 through a comprehensive approach by focusing not just on law enforcement but also stopping the recruitment pipeline," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Cuomo said MS-13 is preying on children coming from Central America, many of whom have no family.

Of the funding, $16 million will support the expansion of after-school programs, case management services and job opportunities for vulnerable youth, as well as community and local law enforcement initiatives to prevent gang involvement. A total of $2.5 million in funding will also support the Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative and SNUG street outreach on Long Island, which provide law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations with resources to help combat gun and gang violence using proven, evidence-based strategies.

Some may also go to a program called Youth Enrichment Services (YES), which offers after-school programs to thousands of kids, including in Brentwood and Central Islip.

"We do homework, tutoring, mentoring," YES CEO MaryAnn Pfeiffer said. "We focus on the positive, the can-do as opposed to what we can't do. So we build on strengths."

Pfeiffer said they also offer violence and drug prevention training to kids.

"Our kids and our families are grateful, they're thankful, they're appreciative," school principal Matthew Gengler said.

The program at Brentwood North Middle School has 183 kids on the wait list. Pfeiffer said the additional money would help them allow more kids into the program by hiring more staff.

"They (YES) has been working in the field, on the ground with the kids for years and to hear finally a recognition of that, a recognition of prevention was said by the Governor of the State of New York was very important to me," Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said.

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