DA closer to Allegheny County task force for narcotics

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Allegheny County Council has moved one step closer to making Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s dreams come true.

On Wednesday, the county budget committee approved moving an extra $472,000 to the district attorney's office to create a crime task force focusing on narcotics, which was at the top of Mr. Zappala's wish list.

That's in addition to another $300,000 council has proposed giving the district attorney, who has said county Executive Rich Fitzgerald's $15.8 million proposal is not enough. Council's allocation now exceeds $16.5 million.

Council member Heather Heidelbaugh, R-Mt. Lebanon, who sponsored the task force allocation proposal, said more needs to be done to help residents in crime-ridden areas feel safe in their homes.

"I've been quite concerned about the escalating violence in some of our communities," she said. "There's nothing worse than living in fear."

Mr. Fitzgerald's staff has said Mr. Zappala already has other funds he can use to create a task force. And they've bristled at the DA's assertion the Allegheny County police aren't doing enough to fight drugs.

Ms. Heidelbaugh's proposal would take money from the nondepartmental services budget, which pays for tuition reimbursements, constable fees and tax-increment financing, among other things. Mr. Fitzgerald added $2 million to that budget in his proposal to help build the county's fund balance.

The budget committee will take another look at the entire operating budget before deciding whether it should be sent to the full council for a final vote.

Andrew McGill: amcgill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1497.

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