Philadelphia officials decry $2 million cut in gun-crimes task force.

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, joined with top Philadelphia law…

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, joined with top Philadelphia law enforcement officials, yesterday called for restoring $2 million in state funding for the Philadelphia Gun Violence Task Force.

“This program doesn’t need to be cut,” Williams said. “It needs to be replicated. It needs to replicated in Allentown, Erie, Harrisburg and other communities” plagued by gun violence.

At a news conference at Philadelphia Police Headquarters, Williams (D., Phila.) noted that in 2005 he secured, with the help of former State Sen. Vincent J. Fumo, a $800,000 state grant for the pilot program for the gun-violence task force.

In 2006, that grant became a $5 million line item in the state’s general-fund budget and the funding remained until the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Kevin Harley, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said the $2 million cut was made by the governor’s office and approved by the legislature. He said an additional $30,000 cut to the program has been proposed for the next fiscal year.

“This has been an extremely effective law enforcement program in getting guns off the street,” Harley said.

Williams, who has declared his candidacy for governor, was joined by Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, District Attorney Seth Williams and Brian Grady, head of the special operations unit of the District Attorney’s Office.

The senator said the group’s work has resulted in 1,207 investigations, the seizure of 743 firearms, the arrests of more than 400 people, and 157 convictions for gun crimes. Those convictions included straw purchasers, people who buy firearms for others prohibited by law from possessing guns.

The task force is composed of special investigators and veteran prosecutors from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, working with Philadelphia police.

Source: Vernon Clark for Philly.com.

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