Allegheny County pursues grants to fight youth gangs

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Allegheny County is hoping to turn $12,480 in local funds into almost a quarter-million dollars for fighting problems caused by youth gangs.

County council on Tuesday will consider a proposal to seek a $236,275 gang-intervention grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. County courts and the sheriff's office would each have to provide $6,240 in matching money.

The plan drew the backing of council's Budget and Finance Committee last week. Committee members also approved a plan to seek a $290,221 federal grant to help reduce a backlog of DNA-analysis cases in the medical examiner's office. That proposal also will come before full council on Tuesday.

The money for anti-gang efforts would come at an important time for the county, council members said. Gang activity and accompanying crime have long been problems in some Pittsburgh neighborhoods, budget committee chairman Bill Robinson, D-Hill District, said. "More members of council will get pressure from their constituents to do something if gun violence spreads to more suburban communities," he predicted.

Money from the state anti-gang grant would be spent over a two-year period.

Sheriff William Mullen's office would use its share of the funds to pay overtime for deputies involved with anti-gang efforts. Jerry Tyskiewicz, the court's manager of fiscal affairs, said the county probation office planned to hire or reassign a "high-impact" probation officer to concentrate on gang members.

Grant money also could be used to buy equipment like laptop computers and bullet-resistant vests.

Councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, asked how the sheriff's office and the probation office would evaluate the success of the gang-intervention efforts.

Results would be hard to quantify, Mr. Tyskiewicz said. It is likely there would be benefits to having more staff working in the field on gang issues, he said.

Republican councilmen Vince Gastgeb of Bethel Park and Matt Drozd of Ross warned that the county would not pick up the long-term cost for new employees. "People hired with grant money will go when the grant goes," Mr. Drozd said.

Mr. Tyskiewicz said that's why the probation office might decide to transfer an existing staff member to gang-related work rather than hire another person.

If approved by council, the federal grant for the medical examiner's office would pay for three CODIS work stations, two GeneMapper ID-X work stations, employee training, overtime and supplies.

CODIS is the acronym for the Combined DNA Index System, which allows genetic material collected at crime scenes to be compared to specimens in the FBI's National DNA Index System. GeneMapper ID-X software is used in human identification efforts.


Len Barcousky: or 412-263-1159.


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