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West End next in line for 'Weed and Seed'

| Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

Ginny Hamer-Kropf wishes her three college-age children were proud of the Sheraden neighborhood their mother always has called home.

"They don't want to come back, and I'm heartsick over that," she said Wednesday.

The reasons vary from frequent gun-related crimes there to an uninviting look of urban decay among the homes and vacant lots that dot Sheraden and seven other western Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said help for those neighborhood is on the way -- up to $1 million in federal money earmarked to combat gangs, drugs and gun violence.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Justice's Weed and Seed Program, a joint community and law enforcement effort to enhance neighborhood safety. Only the first year's installment worth $175,000 has been approved.

"These funds are not going to be used just to weed the bad elements from your communities; they'll be used to revitalize," Buchanan said.

The federal money could pay for police overtime and equipment, or used to jump-start construction of such things as playgrounds or senior centers, Buchanan said.

"We can't be successful in fighting crime ... without the cooperation of the community. Today is the beginning of cleaning up the West End," Ravenstahl said.

About 60 people attended the announcement at the Sheraden Senior Center.

The neighborhoods are the third area of Pittsburgh to win Weed and Seed designation. The other two are Lawrenceville and East Liberty.

The eight neighborhoods that will benefit are: Chartiers City, Crafton Heights, Elliot, Esplen, Fairywood, Sheraden, West End and Windgap.

"I see it every day, drug dealing," said Carl Sutor, a Crafton Heights resident who has worked with the neighborhood groups that helped the city acquire the federal grant.

"It's always in the same areas," Sutor said, and often late at night when bars close in his neighborhood. "Anything would help."

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