Former Reading Police Official To Head Norristown Department

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

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

Editor’s note:  It appears Norristown had its act together when it came to finding the most qualified candidate for their new police chief.   Notice they didn’t just move up the next guy in line.  Making these kinds of smart hiring decisions will help Norristown revitalize, making it safer for residents and more attractive to development.

Mark E. Talbot Sr., Reading’s former deputy police chief who left in 2011 to lead a state bureau, has been appointed police chief in Norristown, the seat of Montgomery County.

After an eight-month search, borough council appointed Talbot, 43, on Wednesday.

He’ll be sworn in Nov. 19 and will be paid $117,000.

“It’s a great place for me to be,” Talbot said Thursday of Norristown. “They have some challenges that I can be a part of making a whole lot better.”

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Vehicle Thefts In Reading At 10-Year Low

A decade after vehicle thefts became an epidemic in Reading, police say the crime is on a pace to reach a 10-year low.

As of the end of July, 170 vehicles had been stolen in the city this year, compared to 246 at the same point last year, said Officer Keith Merkel, one of three city policemen assigned full time to a state police regional auto theft task force.

But Merkel isn’t ready to pop champagne corks. He noted August and September were the busiest months for vehicle thefts in the city last year.

While auto thefts have declined locally and nationally in recent years, car thefts actually spiked in Reading in 2012.

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Reading Taking Aim At The Drug Trade

Editor’s note:  Dear Attorney General Kane.  Please zero in on Pottstown (18 miles from Reading).  It is overrun with drug dealers, Section 8 slumlords and has a very high crime rate.  The police force is overwhelmed.

Reading is one of the portals through which much of Pennsylvania is receiving illegal drugs, and state Attorney General Kathleen Kane has proposed a plan that she says could help stanch the flow.

“The major source of supply into Harrisburg and Lancaster and York is coming from Reading,” Kane said during an interview with the Reading Eagle at her office in Harrisburg.

Nearing the midway point of her first year in elective office, she said she viewed illegal drugs as the top issue for her in Berks County.  Other pressing issues include child sex predators and consumer protection.  Kane previously worked as a Lackawanna County prosecutor and as an attorney.

Supplies of crack, PCP, heroin or marijuana come to Reading from places such as Arizona, Illinois and New York, with the original major source being Mexico, Kane said.  In Reading, the drugs are repackaged into street-sale quantities and sent out to other parts of Pennsylvania.

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Stealing Burglars’ Thunder: New Reading Police Unit Solving Crimes Fast

Editor’s note:  Two Roy’s Rants thumbs up!!!

The dedicated burglary unit is in line with Chief William M. Heim’s crime reduction strategy, which relies on focused policing to do more with less manpower.

Serial burglars in Reading are feeling the heat due to the formation of a city police squad that specializes in investigating burglaries.

The squad was started in early March with the temporary transfer of two patrolmen to the criminal investigations division, said Sgt. John M. Solecki, who supervises the unit.

Solecki credited the burglary squad – consisting of officers James Kennedy and Christopher Bucklin – with two recent arrests of suspected serial burglars.

About two-dozen burglaries have been cleared as a result of those and other arrests, he said.

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Crime Is Focus Of Community Forum

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

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

With quality of life one of the top factors businesses consider in deciding to move into a community, the Greater Berks Chamber of Commerce & Industry focused on one local quality-of-life issue at its “State of the Community” breakfast Friday: crime.

Panel members, chief among them Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams, said crime is not as bad as it might seem.

“There’s a misperception of the rate of crime in the city,” Adams told more than 100 Chamber members gathered at the Crowne Plaza Reading, Wyomissing.

He noted that, comparing the local rates of murders, robberies and assaults with comparable cities and counties in the region, Reading and Berks are in the middle of the pack, not worst of the pack.

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Next Generation Of Reading Police Cameras Keeping Watch

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. ...

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. Taken by Adrian Pingstone in August 2004 and released to the public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Pottstown needs to get cameras! There are grants out there!

Criminals, beware, for Big Brother is getting more eyes to see you.

And remember you.

Reading’s next round of 20 security cameras is being installed in new neighborhoods, augmenting the 27 cameras in the downtown network since 2008.

“We’ve been pretty successful with them,” Police Chief William M. Heim said, noting there have been dozens of cases in which the existing cameras have been helpful in solving crimes and arresting suspects.

In March, City Council awarded a $650,000 camera contract to New York-based Let’s Think Wireless, with money from the same 2007 federal grant of $1.7 million that bought the first round from the same company.

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City Of Reading Shootings Fall, Other Violent Crimes Up In 2012

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Violent crime – especially murders – edged up in Reading last year, Police Chief William M. Heim told City Council on Wednesday.

In 2012, he said, murders rose 25 percent from 2011.

Still, Heim said, the city has nowhere near the crime levels it did in 2004 when it reported 1,116 incidents of violent crime.  The 2012 statistics showed 828 incidents.

And the number of people shot also dropped, to 57 last year from 65 in 2011. The high was 109 people shot in 2002.

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Driver Killed In Reading Crash

A city man was killed Thursday when he drove through a red light on Schuylkill Avenue at Buttonwood Street while talking on a cellphone and his car was hit broadside by a work van, authorities said.

Jose E. DeJesus Garcia, 53, who investigators said lived in the northwestern area of the city not far from the crash site, was pulled from the car by a nearby resident as the vehicle caught fire following the 8:25 a.m. accident.  He died before police arrived.

Within minutes, police vehicles, firetrucks and ambulances filled a one-block area that was strewn with mangled vehicle parts.  Firefighters quickly put out the burning car.

City detectives and evidence technicians responded along with patrol officers.  The intersection was closed nearly four hours, slowing commuter traffic on other routes.

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Arbitrators Slash Newer Reading Police Officers’ Pay, Benefits

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City police, especially those hired this year and in the future, will take major pay and benefit cuts now and when they retire, according to a five-year contract handed down Friday by a panel of arbitrators.

The panel froze officers’ salaries and step increases for three years and cut starting salaries, vacation time and sick leave in the new contract, which is retroactive to January 2012.

In setting the terms, the panel followed the city’s Act 47 financial recovery plan to cut millions of dollars a year from police costs.

For employees hired before the old contract expired at the end of 2011, the panel kept that contract’s pension benefits – up to 70 percent of working salaries, the ability to buy years of service to raise that pension, and city-paid retiree health insurance.

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Reading Crime Summit Ideas

Attacking crime in Reading will take more than law enforcement and government officials sitting down for a meeting, community leaders said Tuesday in response to a call by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. for a crime summit in August.

State Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone, a Reading Democrat, said more police officers would help, but money is not likely to be readily available from the state or federal governments because of their budget situations.

So the key to success will be getting parents to take responsibility for their children and schools to provide more athletic and educational activities for youths, he said.

Representatives from faith-based organizations, fraternal and social groups and businesses must be at the table, Caltagirone said.

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Caltagirone Seeks Funds For Reading’s War On Crime

Shaking a few trees could bear fruit for crime-fighting efforts in the city, state Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone said Friday.

“I’m on the board of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency,” the Reading Democrat said. “I’m going to make a special appeal to see if there’s any money or different programs available.”

Police Chief William M. Heim said the department would welcome the money.

“We could use it for additional training for our officers, such as investigative and operational seminars, as well as providing supervisory and management training for new sergeants and lieutenants,” he said. “We could also use help to upgrade and replace the laptop computers in our patrol cars to accommodate updated technology.”

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Some Reading Neighbors, Officials Leery Of Liquor License At Perkiomen Avenue Site

The owner of the planned Shop Smart Buy Smarter grocery has spent more than $1 million on the building at 1626 Perkiomen Ave. and wants to open a 38-seat restaurant that’s in the same building but separate from the store.

To do that, state law says he needs City Council’s OK to transfer an out-of-town liquor license to the restaurant.

But city officials and neighbors told council at a hearing Wednesday that they don’t need yet another liquor outlet in the area that’s already got plenty of taverns.

Council plans a vote on the measure May 29.

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City Of Reading Needs More Cops, Police Chief Warns

Despite needing 174 officers this year and budgeting for 168, the Reading Police Department has fewer than 140 officers able to do their full jobs, Police Chief William M. Heim told City Council on Monday.

And the Reading Fire Department is down seven firefighters from its already pared force – a gap being filled by mandatory overtime because the firefighters are too tired to volunteer for it – acting Fire Chief Jeffrey Squibb said.

Mass retirements have plagued both departments, and council asked the chiefs what their needs were for the city’s safety. The question was partly a reaction to council’s earlier, grudging approval of two new hires for the mayor’s office.

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Reading, PA To Nearly Double Number Of Street Cameras

Two Roy’s Rants thumbs up!  Reading is being proactive on crime and blight!  Make sure you read the rest of the article, especially Pottstown Borough Council and leadership!

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. ...

Image via Wikipedia

City Council on Monday agreed to expand Reading’s security camera system, awarding a $650,000 contract to New York-based Let’s Think Wireless to add 20 or more cameras to the 27 the city already has.

Cameras in the first phase are mostly downtown, but the new cameras will be installed in other areas of the city, Police Chief William M. Heim said.

The new cameras also will connect wirelessly to City Hall monitoring stations, rather than via the fiber-optic links used by the current cameras.

“What we have so far has worked very well,” Heim said.

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