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Funding to fight gang crime in Lackawanna County

Newswatch 16's Courtney Harrison spoke with the local police on the front lines of that fight.

SCRANTON, Pa. — In Lackawanna County, federal funds are coming to help reduce violent gang activity.

State and local law enforcement gathered outside the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton on Monday as Rep. Matt Cartwright and District Attorney Mark Powell announced $2 million in federal funding for Lackawanna County. The money will support area police departments to target gangs, drugs, and illegal gun activity.

"What is reassuring is that we're not alone, and we're getting the support we need to continue our operations and enhance our operations," said Scranton Police Chief Thomas Carroll.

Powell says the funds for the Lackawanna County Gang and Gun Reduction and Intelligence Project will also hire officers to focus on getting guns and drugs off the streets and putting those criminals in jail. Powell also says nearly 30 percent of the county prison's population is made up of gang members.

"We're going to have the ability to fund full-time officers to address this particular need, and hopefully, we're going to be recruiting individuals with specialized knowledge of gangs because that's going to be the draw," Powell said.

"We see a lot of transient criminal activity, especially through Lackawanna County. Having the interstate system here – 81,84, 380 – so it doesn't surprise me," said Capt. Peter Gutkowski, Pennsylvania State Police.

Chief Carroll says the department has been focusing on gun-related incidents. These crimes begin with illegal gun sales. He says this federal money recognizes the hard work his officers do every day to ensure public safety.

"That's an indication of our efforts to be proactive and investigate these crimes and get the guns off the streets before they are used by criminals."

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