DA: High-profile cases in Lehigh Valley may be gang-related

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DA: High-profile cases in Lehigh Valley may be gang-related. Walter Perez reports during Action News at 4:30 p.m. on July 31, 2018. (WPVI)

The Northampton County district attorney announced Tuesday a possible break in two high-profile crimes in the Lehigh Valley.

Law enforcement officials believe that recent criminal activity, including the Lehigh Valley Mall shooting on June 1st that left two people injured, and the still unsolved murder of a man stabbed and set on fire a few months ago, are gang-related.

Still, Northampton County DA John Morganelli says the threat to the general public is not serious.

"Their violent criminal activities are generally more personal in nature, and more often related to other gang members or individuals who may be competing with the gang in drug distribution or other crimes," Morganelli said.

But Morganelli and local officials add that they want to make sure the local gang presence expands no further. So, they're asking for help from Harrisburg.

Currently, there is a state statute banning gang recruitment. But the laws regarding gang membership remain vague.

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio says he doesn't get it.

"It is a little silly that recruitment is against the law but being an active member in a criminal gang who commits a crime, that active membership isn't against the law," Chief DiLuzio said.

Meanwhile, Morganelli says he is especially eager to solve the murder of Tyrell Holmes.

Holmes was the 18-year-old who was stabbed and set ablaze outside an apartment complex in Bethlehem last April.

Court documents reveal that some of the victim's final social media posts indicated that local gang members were out to get him.

Despite the fact that the person or people responsible remain on the loose, the DA says the citizens of Bethlehem should not be overly concerned.

"Bethlehem remains a safe community and we want to ensure the public that this kind of activity is generally aimed at competitors and personal relationships within the gang," Morganelli said.

Morganelli is calling for a state gang statute, which he says will take current state laws and federal RICO statutes - ones that further would make gang membership illegal in the state of Pennsylvania.

But as of right now, Morganelli says, as far as he knows, there isn't a gang statute bill being considered in Harrisburg.

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