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CITY UNVEILS JOINT TASK FORCE TO FIGHT CRIME

A new joint law enforcement task force aimed at curbing violence on the city's streets was unveiled Wednesday as officials indicated that they expect federal funds to help the task force fight crime.

Both houses of Congress have passed crime legislation with a price tag of about $20 billion. A Senate-House of Representatives conference committee is working out the differences, and congressional leaders hope compromise legislation can reach President Clinton's desk by Memorial Day.

On Wednesday, Mayor Masiello stood at Police Headquarters with city Police Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, Erie County Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins and officials from the state police, county district attorney's office and county Probation Department to announce the formation of the Career Criminal Task Force.

The force will be headed by Police Lt. Timothy Scioli, formerly a commanding officer in the Buffalo Homicide Bureau.

Ten detectives -- from city police, Sheriff's Department and the state police -- will be assigned to the task force, and as many as 18 to 20 officers will be directly involved in an effort to identify criminals with a propensity for violence and to stop them before they commit the most serious offenses.

"We're going after people involved in guns, gangs, violence and drugs," Kerlikowske said, adding that the unit will involve officers from the patrol level to the Intelligence Unit.

"You've heard of 'three strikes and you're out.' Well, we are going to have our own: 'One strike and you're out.' We're going to be tough on people having a history of drugs, guns and violence," Masiello said.

No new resources to fund the effort were mentioned during the news conference, but both the mayor and the police commissioner made it clear that they want federal dollars to beef up law enforcement.

"We are going to apply for grant monies," Kerlikowske said when asked about funding for the task force.

"We can't protect and prosecute out of the property tax base. We need significant federal aid so we can win back our cities," Masiello said.

Higgins held out hope that the task force could help reduce the number of homicides in the city, and he pledged the support of his department.

Capt. George Brown of the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation said some of the 110 troopers Gov. Cuomo has assigned to help stem upstate violent crime will work on the task force.

"We will identify those in the community that are just beginning their criminal career. These are the people engaged in violence," Scioli said, explaining that leaders of gangs gain status by committing violent acts.

Scioli said he hopes to work with precinct detectives in identifying targets of the task force, and he said the effort will be modeled after the successful joint operation that put members of Donald "Sly" Green's so-called LA Boys gang behind bars.

Kerlikowske said the task force will be operating within a week.

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