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ALLENTOWN, PA— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today joined elected officials and local and federal law enforcement partners to discuss the challenges posed by drug and gang related crime fueled by drug and gang activity in the Lehigh Valley and Greater Berks County. At the meeting, Senator Casey discussed strategies to reduce drug and gang crime and prevent it from spreading.

“I am troubled by reports that drug and gang crime in Eastern Pennsylvania is getting worse,” said Senator Casey. “It is imperative that local, state and federal resources are coordinated to reduce the threat that drugs and gangs are posing to our communities and stop the spread of drug trafficking organizations in Pennsylvania.”

Senator Casey discussed anti-drug crime strategies with Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan and Easton Mayor Sal Panto as well as local law enforcement officials and Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin and Berks County District Attorney John Adams. Federal law enforcement partners also attended the meeting.

Last week, the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) released a drug and gang threat assessment requested by Senator Casey for Eastern Pennsylvania. Senator Casey discussed the findings of the report at the meeting and pledged to continue to work to direct federal resources to fighting this regional problem.

In February, Senator Casey wrote to House Speaker John Boehner urging him to abandon proposed cuts to local law enforcement programs that would make it harder to stop the spread of gangs and drug related crimes in Pennsylvania.

“We have to tackle the long-term deficit and we need to cut funding for wasteful and inefficient federal programs, but we can’t just indiscriminately hack away at programs that keep our communities safe,” said Senator Casey. “The agencies and individuals fighting this crime are doing a terrific job, but because the crime crosses state borders there is a clear federal responsibility to provide resources to help local officials keep their communities safe.”

The NDIC Eastern Pennsylvania Drug and Gang Threat Assessment 2011 can be viewed here. Among the report’s findings:

• New York gangs are increasingly dominant in many Eastern Pennsylvania drug markets
• Dominican drug trafficking organizations and gangs are strengthening their operations in Allentown and Hazleton where they dominate the wholesale drug market
• Philadelphia and Reading are among the most prominent cocaine markets in the Eastern U.S. 
• Drug-related violent crime is increasing even though overall violent crime in Eastern Pennsylvania is down
• For the future: New York area gangs will move farther into Pennsylvania, heroin use will increase, Mexican drug trafficking organizations and violence against law enforcement officers will increase