Under the Hat: Two Prongs - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Under the Hat: Two Prongs

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The area's fugitive task force is claiming two more victories this week, apprehending two wanted suspects from Erie's Most Wanted List.

It's part of the ongoing effort to address street crime by focusing resources at the local, state and federal levels to maximize the impact in Erie's neighborhoods.

You may remember that for about five years in the late 1990's we partnered with what was then the fugitive task force to present a weekly story on a wanted suspect called "The Fugitive Files."

The members didn't want to publicize this at the time, but by including television coverage to their searches they were able to triple their arrest rates, and for a while led all task forces in the state in the percentage of bad guys caught.

After 9-11 the FBI changed its focus to domestic and international terrorism and had less time to participate in efforts to catch local criminals.

But with a resurgence in violent street crime in recent years comes a renewed effort for law enforcement to join forces.

Now the U.S. Attorney's office and the U.S. Marshal's office is joining with the State Police, Erie Police, Sheriff's office and even Crawford County law enforcement to work together to find and remove wanted fugitives.

As a federally-deputized joint task force, they can go anywhere in Erie County, or even into New York or Ohio for that matter to get the people they are after.

But that may not even be our best chance at stemming street violence in the long term.

The other part of this two prong initiative is to identify how young people are getting onto the Most Wanted List to begin with, and what programs might help divert them to another path.

That work is currently going on through the Erie County Policy and Planning Council housed at Mercyhurst University.

They are looking at certain facts, like the likelihood that jail time goes way up for kids who start failing classes, even as early as third grade.

Would a program that intervenes with mentoring and support at age 9, keep a gun out of a 16-year old's hands later on?

Clearly, arresting law breakers is important, but just cleaning up the mess is not enough.

Recommendations on what else we can do are due out in April.

It seems to be a promising start.

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