Residents to address gangs with solicitor

YORK -- York residents want drug dealers and gang members out of their city, and they plan to tell York County Solicitor Kevin Brackett about it Monday when he meets with local law enforcement officers and York residents.

Brackett arranged the meeting to tell people about what his office does and what his goals are, but he also wants to answer questions and listen to concerns, he said.

One thing residents hope to talk with the solicitor about is making sure that drug dealers and gang members are prosecuted to the highest possible level so they don't come back and pose a threat to the community, York Police Chief Bill Mobley said.

"I don't mean to be vindictive, but if a man shoots somebody three times, I don't want him out on the street the next day," Mobley said. "The community is not going to put up with it."

A steering committee trying to start a Weed and Seed program in York plans to attend and voice their concerns.

"We're just hoping that our neighborhoods are better and safer and people are just more comfortable," said Diane Leary of Cedar Terrace Apartments who has been attending the Weed and Seed meetings.

Weed and Seed is a federally funded program that gives money to communities to help fight crime and fix up dilapidated areas. Towns or cities participating in the program are required to come up with 25 percent of their own funds. The maximum amount that can be given is $1 million. If awarded, the money would be spread over several years and could be used to increase police patrols, tow away abandoned cars or pay for other community projects.

"There are certain areas that need tender loving care," Mobley said.

Gangs have been a particular concern in York lately. Debbie Self of the York Police Department said there are more than a dozen gangs operating in or within a close proximity to York.

"The gangs are coming in and trying to take over communities," Mobley said. "The only way that we can fight it is to try to eliminate the gangs either through law enforcement or try to get involved with youth and try to divert them from that."

It will take a community effort starting with families and stretching out over all aspects of the city to succeed, Mobley said.

"It's not one particular problem for one particular group," Mobley said. "It's a community-wide thing."

Brackett said he's looking forward to hearing from the public and seeing what ways the entire criminal justice system and communities can do to get rid of gangs.

"We're certainly concerned about it and are going to make the issue a priority because organized criminal activity is always very troubling to law enforcement," Brackett said.

The meeting will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday in the York Fire Department training room on North Roosevelt Street. Brackett will meet with the Clover Police Department and residents from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the police station. He plans to meet with the Rock Hill Police Department later this month.