Need to work together, mayors say

Mayor Street spent hours yesterday holed up inside the National Constitution Center mulling over crime strategies with his counterparts from across the tri-state area.

Street and the 15 other mayors from Wilmington to Harrisburg spent their afternoon exchanging concerns and recommendations on how the region can work together to fight the thugs.

Murders, guns and drugs are major problems not only in Philadelphia, but across the entire country, the politicians said. Criminals don't consider jurisdictional boundaries while breaking the law and it is time for city leaders to do the same, they said.

"We really believe that if we all start working together in an unprecedented way then we can get unprecedented results," Street told reporters while Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson, and about half a dozen mayors, stood at his side.

Street's call for the talks came at a critical time for Philadelphia, which has tallied 99 homicides so far this year, up 18 percent from the same period last year, when homicides were also on the rise.

Still, Philadelphia was far from the anomaly in the group when it came to its violent image. Reading was ranked the most dangerous city in the state last year by the private research group Morgan Quitno Press, Trenton police have been battling gangs for years, while Allentown has cracked down on its major drug dealers.

"The issue of crime, the issue of drugs, the issue of gangs, and the violence that comes out of that, is something that affects all of our cities, both large and small," said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski. "We all see the same types of activity."

Pawlowski mentioned a $2.5 million federal grant his city shared with six surrounding cities to combat drugs. The money was used to indict nine area dealers and to seize more than a million dollars in drug money, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The mayors also discussed plans to band together to battle Pennsylvania's lax gun laws as well as the controversial Tiahrt Amendment - attached to a Department of Justice appropriations bill by conservative Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Ks.) - which has made it harder for law enforcement to trace illegal guns since its 2003 inception.

Street said the next step was for the mayors to prioritize all their concerns and work jointly in figuring the best way to solve them. *