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U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter came to York yesterday to talk about youth violence. Behind him is York County Commissioner Lori Mitrick. (John Pavoncello photo)
U. S. Sen. Arlen Specter met with law enforcement officials in York City yesterday to discuss problems with gang and youth violence in the area.

The two-hour meeting at the Yorktowne Hotel on East Market Street was closed to the public, but afterward Specter, R-Pa., said he met with about 50 local, state and federal officials to discuss the problems they are facing fighting crime.

"It helps (U.S. Sen. Bob) Casey and I to evaluate what additional funding is appropriate," Specter said.

Local officials said street gangs in York and throughout the Route 222 corridor from Easton to Lancaster County were a main topic of discussion at the meeting.

District Attorney Stan Rebert said street gangs have been a problem in York County since the late 1990s that local law enforcement officials have been trying to tackle.

"It's an ongoing problem," Rebert said.

Although no specific street gangs in York County were discussed at yesterday's meeting, Martin Carlson, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, said officials did discuss overall strategies for combating gangs.

"We're enhancing the ability to prosecute (and) the ability to prevent gang crime," Carlson said.

$100,000 coming: Patrick Meehan, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of the state, said York County will be receiving $100,000 in federal and state funding as part of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania's 222 Corridor anti-gang initiative.

The grant money will be used as part of an effort to stop street gang drug runners who use Route 222 to bring cocaine and heroin in from large cities, such as New York.


Five other counties including Dauphin, Lancaster, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton are also receiving a portion of the $2.5 million grant.

Specter said he is encouraged by the amount of cooperation in York County between law enforcement officials and organizations such as the United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Specter's meeting in York yesterday one of a series that the senator has held in recent weeks. Specter, who is a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has also held meetings to discuss youth violence and delinquency in Philadelphia, Reading and Lancaster.

Specter described the discussions with local officials as "more meaningful than the meetings we have in Washington."

In addition to community leaders and education officials, York City Police Commissioner Mark Whitman also attended the meeting with Specter, as did FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency officials and representatives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"Today we saw a real spirit of cooperation," Specter said.

-- Reach Brock Parker at 505-5434 or bparker@york