According to a report by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the State of New York and the Southern Tier is facing a gang and drug abuse problem. Gillibrand says there could be as many as 50,000 gang members in the state, with 2,000 of them coming from the Southern Tier. Our Vince Slomsky sat down with the sheriff of Broome County to find out how big the problem really is.
BROOME COUNTY, N.Y. -- Senator Gillibrand's report on gangs in the state is pretty alarming. As many as 50,000 people in New York could be involved in a gang, with as many as 2,000 in the Southern Tier.
For Broome County, that number is as many as 499, a number that is rising, says Sheriff David Harder.
"It's definitely on the increase, there's no doubt about it. You can see in one particular area in the City of Binghamton, there's a huge problem," Harder said.
The sheriff says the majority of gang members in the county associate themselves with the Bloods or the Crips, but there are several others as well. But he's not so sure about the senator's estimates.
"They're like nomads. They come and go," Harder said. "How are you going to say there's this many in Broome County? Same thing with the drug addicts. It's hard to say there. Are there a lot of them, sure there are."
Gillibrand's report says there are actually more than 22,000 substance abusers in the county, or about one in every nine people. It's a number that may also be rising.
"Heroin, cocaine and marijuana are still the prevalent drugs out there and heroine has increased lately where it used to be on the low part," Harder said.
Harder says his department and other local units within the county deal with these problems on a daily basis and they're trying to bring the numbers down. But people should take caution.
"I think there should be some concern, yes. It's only going to take tough law enforcement to get rid of it. Otherwise, it's just going to keep spreading," Harder said.
Gillibrand announced a new legislative agenda to help fight the gang and drug problems. She is co-sponsoring several acts and pushing for funding for anti-drug and anti-gang programs.