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NIAGARA NEWS BRIEFS

>Caso, police officer, running for Legislature

NIAGARA FALLS -- Police Officer William Caso wants to blow the whistle on Niagara County Legislator Sean J. O'Connor's political career.

Caso, a Republican, announced Wednesday he's running for 5th District legislator against O'Connor, a Democrat who has represented the LaSalle area in the Legislature for 22 years and confirmed Wednesday he's running again.
Caso, a policeman for 20 years, said the district needs "more aggressive representation" and cited what he said were poor conditions along Cayuga Creek and the LaSalle Expressway.
O'Connor said the county has designated Cayuga Creek its top watershed priority and said he has been working on improving the expressway, part of which was recently repaved.

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>Safe tractor operation to be taught in course

ALBION -- The Cornell Cooperative Extension branches in Orleans and Niagara counties have joined to offer a 24-hour course to youths ages 14 and up, instructing them how to properly drive farm tractors.

The course, required under the Federal Hazardous Operations Order in Agriculture, will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, this week through April 21, at Bentley Brothers, 13936 Million Dollar Highway, Route 31.

Interested families should call the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County at (585) 798-4265, Ext. 22, to sign up. Youths seeking certification must have their 14th birthday by the final week of the course to receive a certificate.

Cost of the course is $10, and the extension is accepting registrations until Friday.

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>Program to crack down on gang violence

WASHINGTON New York's two Democratic senators Wednesday unveiled plans to crack down on gang violence. Charles E. Schumer is a sponsor of the Gang Abatement and Prevention Act of 2007, a bill that would give more funding for law enforcement, as well as a new witness protection program, and make gang recruitment a crime.

In a conference call with reporters, Schumer said he also is sponsoring a second bill, called the Schools Safety Enhancement Act, that would set up a grant program to improve security at elementary and secondary schools.

Later, Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her sponsorship of the gang abatement bill, along with Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah and Dianne Feinstein of California. The bill would provide $1 billion to local law enforcement over five years.

Law enforcement at every level of government would get more than $1 billion over the next five years from the new legislation, said Schumer, adding that new measures are needed because "gangs are spreading like a virus in too many places."

His office released figures that show violent crime and drug arrests are up. In Western New York, the report shows, the number of violent crimes reported rose to 6,864 in 2005 from 6,006 in 2000. Drug arrests rose to 5,338 from 4,551 over the same period. Schumer said that an increase in gang activity is to blame for the rise in crime.

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