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Specter encourages volunteering for mentor programs

Want to help fight crime? Sen. Arlen Specter says to be a mentor.

Since February, Specter has facilitated round-table discussions on youth violence with federal and local law enforcement officials in six Pennsylvania towns.

One of his main goals is to solicit volunteers to participate in existing mentoring programs through organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Inc. He said mentoring is one of the fastest ways to help a child who might otherwise turn to violence.

“It’s immediate. You get a mentor, they get a hold of the kid today and they start working with them. And mentoring has worked,” Specter, a former Philadelphia district attorney, said in a recent interview.

Specter, R-Pa., said fighting youth violence has long been an interest, but he decided to get more involved this year because of increased violence in Philadelphia. The city recently had its 200th slaying of the year, and the murder rate is up from last year the deadliest in nearly a decade.

He said that crime in Pennsylvania goes beyond the big cities. Reading, he noted, is the 21st most dangerous city in the country.

In April, he convened a meeting with representatives and presidents from several Pennsylvania universities and asked them to encourage faculty and students to volunteer to mentor. He’s working to facilitate a partnership with the Philadelphia Eagles and Big Brothers Big Sisters to form mentoring relationships, and is looking for ways to get the business community more involved.

One of his early recruits was his son, Shanin, a Philadelphia attorney.

Specter had Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on youth violence in Philadelphia in 2005 and this year, along with discussions on the subject this year in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Reading, York and Lehigh. A seventh meeting in Altoona focused on Operation Our Town, an initiative to fight drug use and crime.

He recently announced he obtained a $4.8 million grant from the Department of Labor for the Philadelphia School District to target youth involvement in gangs.

On the Net: Sen. Arlen Specter:

Big Brothers Big Sisters:

National Mentoring Partnership:

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