TRENTON – The Senate Law & Public Affairs and Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved legislation today sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner and John A. Girgenti aimed at combating gang violence by working to find more employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth.
“Jobs for young people tend to be scarce, especially in our urban communities,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and a leading Senate voice for combating street gangs. “Many young recruits turn to gangs as a means of making ‘easy’ money. We need to do more to expand opportunities for young people to earn money, so they don’t turn to a life of crime.”
The bill, S-2010, would require the Disadvantaged Youth Employment Opportunities Council to report directly to the State Employment and Training Center (SETC). It would also add three members to the Council – the Executive Director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education and two representatives of county vocational-technical schools.
“The mission of the SETC blends well with the Disadvantaged Youth Employment Opportunities Council. By having them work together, we can expand the jobs available to young people by providing new training opportunities,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Bergen and Passaic.
Senator Girgenti, who as Chair of the Committee has focused on gang issues, added, “The key to combating street gangs is to provide our young people with economic and social alternatives to criminal activities. We must lead them down the path towards a responsible adult life.”
Senators Turner and Girgenti were both co-sponsors of the 2001 law which created the Council as part of the Youth Employment and After School Incentive Pilot Program. The purpose of the program is to provide employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth with private and nonprofit employers.
“I have long said that the elimination of gangs on our streets is going to take a lot of proactive, outside the box thinking. This program is exactly the type measure that will help us win this battle,” said Senator Turner.
The bill passed the Committee by a unanimous vote. It now goes to the full Senate for their approval.