Blair County’s Operation Our Town Funds Law Enforcement And Rehab Efforts

In 2006, Michael A. Fiore was talking with a police officer about a shooting — the kind that never happened in Altoona before big-city drug dealers came to town.

The officer said his department didn’t even have bulletproof vests to wear on raids, Mr. Fiore recounted Tuesday. “I said, ‘Go out and get eight of them, and send me the bill.’”

Over the course of a year, that act of generosity morphed into the creation of Operation Our Town, in which Blair County business leaders pledge $10,000 each year to fight drugs.

Last year the organization backed Altoona’s schools, after school programs, youth sports groups, mentoring for first-time mothers and construction of a playground, among other efforts.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/state/2014/12/01/Blair-County-s-Operation-Our-Town-funds-law-enforcement-and-rehab-efforts/stories/201411300093

Hazleton PA and Pottstown PA By The Numbers

Reading the City of Hazleton’s 2015 Proposed Budget got me thinking about spending and waste.  These two towns are a good comparison because of population, ethnic diversity, demographics and even physical size.  Pottstown’s budget is more than 4 times are large as Hazleton’s, so here are some numbers to ponder courtesy of http://www.CityData.com:

 

Population:

Hazleton (2012) 25,224

Pottstown (2012) 22,480

 

Races:

Hazleton -

  • White alone – 14,580 (57.9%)
  • Hispanic – 9,717 (38.6%)
  • Black alone – 422 (1.7%)

Pottstown -

  • White alone – 15,377 (68.7%)
  • Black alone – 4,147 (18.5%)
  • Hispanic – 1,785 (8.0%)

 

Physical size (land area):

Hazleton is 5.97 square miles

Pottstown is 4.83 square miles

 

Crime rate – U.S. average = 296.6:

Hazleton (2012) 306.3

Pottstown (2012) 434

 

Police Department size:

Hazleton – 38 officers, hiring 10 new police officers built in the $9.3 million proposed budget (they think they have a crime problem).

Pottstown -46 officers, (they don’t think they have a crime problem)

 

Unemployment:

Hazleton – July 2013, 12.8%

Pottstown – July 2013, 6.7%

 

Population density:

Hazleton – 4,222 people per square mile

Pottstown – 4,655 people per square mile

 

Municipal Budget:

Hazleton – $9.3 million (2015 Proposed budget)

Pottstown – $44.8 million (2015 Proposed budget)

 

Cost of living index:

Hazleton – 95.3 (near average, U.S. average is 100)

Pottstown – 103.7 (near average, U.S. average is 100)

 

Average home value:

Hazleton – $93,389 (2012)

Pottstown – $134,796 (2012)

 

Average rent:

Hazleton – Median gross rent in 2012: $631

Pottstown – Median gross rent in 2012: $762

 

Estimated median household income:

Hazleton – $30,492 (2012)

Pottstown – $41,864 (2012)

 

Registered sex offenders:

Hazleton – there were 10 registered sex offenders living in Hazleton, Pennsylvania as of November 10, 2014

Pottstown – there were 49 registered sex offenders living in Pottstown, Pennsylvania as of November 10, 2014

Killings, Shootings, Crashes Mark Violent Weekend In Philadelphia Area

The weekend in the Philadelphia region was marked by a series of violent incidents, including shootings and car crashes that have left at least eight people dead since Friday night.

The deaths include two fatal shootings in Camden and three in Philadelphia, as well as two deadly traffic accidents in South Jersey and one in Bensalem.

Other violent incidents also added to the weekend mayhem, including the shooting of a Temple University student, two double shootings and a robber who threatened to give his victim AIDS.

In Camden, authorities are investigating two deadly shootings that occurred hours apart Sunday morning.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Killings_shootings_crashes_mark_violent_weekend_in_Philadelphia_area.html#0hUiZaOfGhfvm0Iv.99

Fear Grows Along With Body Count In Week Of Violence On Pittsburgh Streets

Locator map with the Glen Hazel neighborhood i...

Locator map with the Glen Hazel neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gunmen targeted three victims in two apparently unrelated incidents Monday after a “pretty violent” week around the city that left some residents fearing for their lives.

A Pittsburgh sanitation worker was shot to death in his car Monday morning as he prepared to begin his route. Less than five hours later, two masked gunmen chased two victims on the streets of Glen Hazel in full view of neighbors, killing one and leaving the other in critical condition. A Chicago man was shot in the face and killed Saturday night in Beltzhoover. Arlington Heights was the scene of two daylight shootings Saturday and Sunday that wounded four.

Police are treating the incidents as unrelated, said Public Safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler.

“Right now, there’s no reason to believe they’re connected,” Toler said. She described the past week as “pretty violent” and said the people involved in most of the shootings participated in “undesirable activities.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/6956058-74/pittsburgh-hodges-police#ixzz3GA1DJZje
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Demands To ‘Stop the Violence’ Dominate Wilkes-Barre City Council Meeting

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Desperate for answers in the shooting death of one son, Yvonne George pleaded to be heard in order to save her other child.

Her brief statement capped the raucous and at times unruly city council meeting Thursday night filled with other members of the black community fed up with violence in the city and demanding something be done to end it.

A photo of her son David George was on the collage of black-and-white photos above the words “Stop The Violence” on posters held up in the audience. The 24-year-old man was shot and killed July 18, 2013, on South Welles Street, the seventh of the city’s 13 homicide victims that year.

“I feel that the Wilkes-Barre police every time something happens with a black person down here, the first thing they say is is it’s drug related and it’s gang related,” the deceased man’s mother said. “My son was not in no gang.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/news/50464272/

Web Petition Wants To Stop Sherman Hills Funding

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A post on the White House’s We the People website petitions the Obama Administration to cease Section 8 subsidies to the Sherman Hills apartment complex.

But before it earns a response from White House staff, it first must gather 100,000 signatures by Aug 15.

Readers on the Times Leader’s Facebook page were quick to respond when asked if they would sign the petition. Many readers commented emphatically that they would sign. However, the petition only gained 5 signatures in the same time period.

One commenter suggested tenants receive criminal background checks and drug tests.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1541121/Web-petition-wants-to-stop-Sherman-Hills-funding

Wilkes-Barre Police Chief: Sherman Hills Cameras Not Working

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Surveillance cameras in Sherman Hills did not record Tuesday’s shooting at the troubled apartment complex when two men were seriously injured, city police Chief Gerard Dessoye said Thursday.

Dessoye said the camera system, he believed, was “not fixed” as pledged by the complex’s former owner, Sherman Hills Realty Inc.

“(Cameras) couldn’t provide any details about the shooting,” Dessoye said, noting he has not seen any security enhancements at the apartment complex besides the installation of a chain link fence.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, stated in a news release that Treetop Development, which purchased the apartment complex from Sherman Hills Realty earlier this year, “repaired all cameras.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1536916/Dessoye:-Few-security-improvements-at-Sherman-Hills

Howard Brown Backs Growing Stop The Violence Campaign In Pottstown

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

POTTSTOWN, PA — A local hoops legend lent his support Monday night to the anti-violence movement that began in the borough a little more than a month ago.

“When I heard about this, it’s just a natural thing for me to want to be involved in some capacity,” said Howard Brown, the Pottstown grad who went on to play basketball at Villanova and internationally. “We’re actually drumming up a lot of residents and former residents to just not only bring awareness but to talk about some of the issues that we do have, to change.”

With a driving rain cancelling plans for a full march, the Stop the Violence campaign moved indoors at the Ricketts Center, where players in the Olivet Boys and Girls Club’s summer basketball league gathered together between games to pose for a picture and show their support of the movement.

A Maryland resident now, Brown is in town for a combine for his basketball agency, iBall United, which will be held over the weekend both in Valley Forge and at The Hill School.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140714/howard-brown-backs-growing-stop-the-violence-campaign-in-pottstown

Pottstown Shooting Death Ruled Homicide

POTTSTOWN, PA — The victim of a fatal shooting Thursday night has been identified.

Steven Mitchell, 20, was found dead in a car in the 400 block of Jefferson Avenue.

Mitchell died from a single gunshot wound to the torso, according to Dr. Walter Hofman, the Montgomery County Coroner. Hofman was not able to confirm where Mitchell lived.

Mitchell’s death was ruled a homicide, Hofman said.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140606/update-pottstown-shooting-death-ruled-homicide

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In Solving Camden Homicides, Intimidation Is Huge Hurdle

English: Camden, New Jersey is one of the poor...

English: Camden, New Jersey is one of the poorest cities in the United States. Camden suffers from unemployment, urban decay, poverty, and many other social issues. Much of the city of Camden, New Jersey suffers from urban decay. 日本語: ニュージャージー州カムデンのスラム. Svenska: Camden, New Jersey is one of the poorest cities in the United States. Kiswahili: Camden, New Jersey ni moja ya mataifa maskini zaidi katika miji ya Marekani. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ernesto Torres was gunned down nearly two months ago, the bullets flying, his family suspects, because of his dispute with another man about a woman.

Like others whose loved ones have been killed in Camden this year, his mother, Cary Soldevila, hoped for a quick arrest. But the investigation, which came to a head over the weekend when an arrest warrant was issued for a suspect, took patience.

“I want peace in my heart,” said Soldevila, 43, “that I can go to sleep at night and know that this person who destroyed my life is put away.”

Torres, 22, is one of 17 people killed in Camden so far this year. Of those 17 homicides, 12 are unsolved. Investigators say they have promising leads in some of the cases. But witness intimidation, a lack of people willing to step forward, and a backlog of homicide cases from past years – including 2012, when a record 67 people were killed – have slowed progress.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/local/20140526_In_solving_Camden_homicides__intimidation_is_huge_hurdle.html#QDSmOQafb3k89YLB.99

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Volunteers Search For Answers For Sherman Hills In Wilkes-Barre

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Volunteers who have been trying to help residents of the troubled Sherman Hills Apartments complex in Wilkes-Barre met Saturday to review their progress and provide a sympathetic ear to those with complaints.

The gathering originally was planned as part of a walking tour of the low-income, crime-ridden development with U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, but volunteers said they received notice Friday afternoon that Cartwright was postponing his visit.

Cartwright formed a task force to address problems at Sherman Hills last year after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) threatened to withhold funding to the prior complex owner if it did not make safety and security improvements.

The complex received around $2 million in rental subsidies last year and was sold last month to Teaneck, N.J.-based Treetop Development for $15.7 million.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1415766/Volunteers-search-for-answers-for-Sherman-Hills

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Teen Stabs 22 At Pittsburgh-Area High School

Map of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Unit...

Map of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, United States Public School Districts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MURRYSVILLE, PA (AP) – Flailing away with two kitchen knives, a 16-year-old boy with a “blank expression” stabbed and slashed 21 students and a security guard in the crowded halls of his suburban Pittsburgh high school Wednesday before an assistant principal tackled him.

At least five students were critically wounded, including a boy whose liver was pierced by a knife thrust that narrowly missed his heart and aorta, doctors said. Others also suffered deep abdominal puncture wounds.

The rampage – which came after decades in which U.S. schools geared much of their emergency planning toward mass shootings, not stabbings – set off a screaming stampede, left blood on the floor and walls, and brought teachers rushing to help the victims.

Police shed little light on the motive.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140409_ap_dc67f56a2abf466db1c027077138e2cd.html#JcEUTVsMhStwpXdM.99

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$100K In Sherman Hills Upgrades Begin

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The proposed $100,000 worth of security improvements at the troubled Sherman Hills apartments are underway with the installation of a fence around the property.

Security consultant John Daly said work began last week.

“They’re putting up a 1-inch mesh fence like they proposed earlier and will move on to the next phase,” said of the McLane Investigative Group of New York City.

The possibility of losing the nearly $2 million in rent subsidies by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development prompted the owner Sherman Hills Realty of Brooklyn, N.Y. to promise changes at the complex that has been the scene of drug arrests, violent crimes and a fatal shooting last November.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1289298/$100K-in-Sherman-Hills-upgrades-begin

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Troubled Sherman Hills Apartment Complex To Be Sold

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The same day that the response of the troubled Sherman Hills apartment complex to a federal inspection was released, news comes that the complex is about to be sold.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, who founded a task force to address problems at the crime-ridden complex after two young girls were shot there last August, met Thursday with eight representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, including Regional Director Jane Vincent, he said in a news release.

HUD officials revealed at the meeting that the property is under contract of sale with a transfer date target of April 1, Cartwright said.

The new owner, New Jersey-based Treetop Development, which has no overlapping ownership with the current owners, also will serve as property manager of the Sherman Hills property, Cartwright said, noting that Treetop has had success working with HUD in the past.

Read more: https://bay176.mail.live.com/default.aspx?n=880162491&fid=1#n=534554189&fid=1

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Legion Working Toward Sherman Hills Guard Pact

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A key component of the Sherman Hills Apartments security plan is guards — armed and unarmed — watching the complex and screening outsiders.

The security plan includes:

• Better lighting and possibly more surveillance cameras, but also a guard shack manned around the clock and a mobile armed guard.

• An 8-foot fence is to go up around Sherman Hills and the high rise adjacent to the complex. A gate along North Sherman Street is to be used only by emergency vehicles.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1208223/Legion-working-toward-Sherman-Hills-guard-pact

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Wilkes-Barre Panel OKs Gates For Sherman Hills

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a plan to install gates, one of them staffed around the clock, as part of the overall security improvements at the low-income Sherman Hills apartment complex.

Sam Goldberg, regional manager of the apartment complex owned by Brooklyn-based Sherman Hills Realty, said the owners are eager to get started and have already set aside the money for the work.

“It’s all a matter of once we get the written approval. We do have contractors lined up,” Goldberg said. “We’ll work as fast as we can.”

The plans calls for the installation of a booth and gates for incoming and outgoing vehicles and pedestrians on Empire Court. The booth will be staffed 24 hours a day and control a second set of gates on Parkview Circle leading to the high-rise apartment building on the property. A third gate will be installed at the intersection of North Empire Court and Sherman Street, but emergency responders and police will have access to a key to gain entrance.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/1205576/City-panel-OKs-gates-for-Sherman-Hills

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Pottstown Mayor: ‘Interventions’ Planned For Nuisance Properties After Weekend Shooting

Editor’s note:  Thank you, Sharon!

POTTSTOWN, PA — Mayor Sharon Thomas said a potential plan is in place to deal with “nuisance” properties in the borough following the shooting and subsequent fights with police early Sunday morning outside the Montgomery Elks Lodge.

“I spoke with Chief (Richard) Drumheller today about some interventions,” said Thomas. “There are some plans but they need time in order to come into position, but this is not the time to implement them because there is an ongoing investigation.”

Pottstown Police responded early Sunday morning for a shooting outside the Montgomery Elks Lodge at 609 Walnut St. Arriving around 2:45 a.m., officers found a man, who multiple sources said was Brandon Germany, wounded on the ground, Pottstown police said. While attending to the victim, a crowd came out of the lodge and at least two people assaulted the officers, police said.

The officers were not identified and were taken to an “area hospital” for treatment.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20140203/pottstown-mayor-interventions-planned-for-nuisance-properties-after-weekend-shooting?fb_action_ids=10201321407823274&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B715583075129807%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.likes%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

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