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Lehigh grant to help fight gun violence

Josey1Josey1 Member Posts: 15,758
edited January 2002 in General Discussion
Lehigh grant to help fight gun violence$239,000 program will have major focus on Allentown, DA says.By Kirk Beldon JacksonOf The Morning CallJanuary 29, 2002Lehigh County prosecutors will soon have a new weapon to aim at gun violence.District Attorney Jim Martin and U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey announced Monday that the U.S. Department of Justice is giving the county nearly $239,000 to hire two prosecutors for three years. The county is required to pay for the positions for at least a fourth year, Martin said.With the additional staff, Martin said, his office will be able to form a "gun unit" of four prosecutors who will target gun cases specifically."I am confident that, with this new program in place, we can make great strides in reducing gun violence in the county of Lehigh, and particularly in the city of Allentown," Martin said.Allentown had 38 shootings last year, six of them fatal. Six shootings - three of them fatal - have occurred in the city so far this year.The announcement was made at a news conference attended by Toomey, Lehigh County Executive Jane Ervin, Allentown Mayor Roy Afflerbach and several members of Martin's staff.The plan is to staff the new unit with four members of his staff, rather than new hires, Martin said.Chosen to staff the gun unit are Senior Chief Deputy District Attorney Theodore Racines, Chief Deputy District Attorney Christie Bonesch and Deputy District Attorneys Lisa R. Cippoletti and Gregg Shore."In my judgment, these offenses need to be prosecuted by seasoned lawyers," Martin said.The four prosecutors will attend training that will designate them special assistant U.S. attorneys. With that designation, they can prosecute federal cases under Project Safe Neighborhoods. Defendants generally receive stiffer sentences under federal guidelines, Martin said.The new prosecutors will handle less serious cases, Martin said.Toomey said the $239,000 was drawn from a federal account earmarked to fight gun violence."We are getting a disproportionate share of this," Toomey said, adding that the county is getting the extra amount because "we need the help" and because Martin "has demonstrated he can make a difference."Project Safe Neighborhoods is a $550 million attempt to beef up enforcement and gun laws. The plan calls for 113 new assistant U.S. attorneys and 600 more state and local prosecutors.Over several years, a similar effort launched in Richmond, Va., has helped lower that city's homicide rate by 31 percent, Toomey said."This is the way we should be going about solving the problem," he said.A Department of Justice Web site indicates that Berks County received nearly $235,000, enough for two prosecutors, and Montgomery County was granted about $120,000, enough for one.Martin said he wants to keep the additional help after four years but acknowledged it is up to the county executive and county commissioners.Ervin said other money tends to become available when initial grants run out."That historically is what happens," she [email protected]
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