Hundreds of law enforcement officials at the federal, state and local levels along with social service providers and community leaders are wrapping up a 3 day conference in Cranberry, Butler County later this afternoon on dealing with the increase in violent crime associated with gang activity in the region.
Tom Fitzgerald, U.S. Marshal for Western Pennsylvania, says gang activity tends to come in waves and right now it's on the increase. Fitzgerald says gangs are becoming more sophisticated and evolving "It's not the gangsta rapper you see on T-V." He says the gangs are of all types...white, African-American and Latino and they are spreading into the suburbs. Fitzgerald says law enforcement has to work more closely with community groups to deter young people from joining gangs. One such group is the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania. Mike Hepler is the President and C-E-O. He says they are "tired of young people getting swallowed up by the streets." Hepler says young people are being pulled in one direction by the streets and in the other direction by organizations like his. He says they don't win all of the battles but they do win most of them with the help of law enforcement.