Peace in the city? Officials vow end to rowdy behavior

Officials vow end to rowdy behavior

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Jeff Reeder, president of the Citizens Corps Council, holds up a Suspect I.D. Journal with emergency numbers on the front as he encourages everyone to take one and use it to write down a description of anyone they see committing a crime. The booklets were designed by the council with help in funding by the Lycoming County District Attorney's Office.

Residents of Newberry want assurance they will be safe and can live in peace without nuisances perpetrated by youths.

Frustrated by repeat incidents of pellet guns aimed at house windows, vandalism of vehicles and obnoxious teenagers, some riding bicycles in the street and dodging vehicles, about 50 residents and city officials showed up for a City Council public safety committee-held meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the West End Christian Community Center on Diamond and West Fourth streets.

The committee, chaired by Councilman Joel Henderson, assured residents that police and Williamsport Area School District officials are aware of their concerns and progressively are working together to try to reduce them.

“We know you are frustrated and we want you to enjoy your homes,” said city Police Capt. Jody Miller, who is in charge of the patrol division.

One by one, city residents shared their worries and offered suggestions.

“More police presence at Newberry Park,” one man said. “Hang out but don’t come in a marked car.”

“Good suggestion,” Cpl. Eric Derr, supervisor of the flex shift, remarked. “Valid point.” The shift allows police administration to better schedule officers depending on need.

A plainclothes officer has been tried, as has a bicycle used as bait, according to Derr.

However, juveniles are handy with cellphone technology and easily tune in on the same radio bands as police. By the time a car is dispatched, they disperse, according to the officer.

Police also don’t always have the manpower to devote to specific details such as hanging out and waiting for crime to occur.

Some individuals upset with a perceived lack of attention to their neighborhoods in the West End have sent photographs to police.

A question was asked whether surveillance cameras are working in Newberry Park.

Derr said police can view the videos at City Hall, but the cameras are not always pointed in the right direction.

“We do utilize those cameras,” Derr said. “It never works that they are pointed in the right direction. Murphy’s Law, I guess.”

Meanwhile, Derr said cameras are not the only solution, especially when officers need to be able to identify the individuals captured on video.

Instead, another solution — getting back to the way it was — namely with retired Patrolman Benjamin Laurenson and current Patrolman Mark Lindauer.

These days, Derr said he regularly assigns Officer Zachary Geary, who is Lindauer’s nephew, to patrol Newberry.

Williamsport Area High School Principal Brandon Pardoe said the district uses the police and school resource officer Patrolman Jordan Stoltzfus as part of its commitment to taxpayers.

Whoever sees illegal activity should agree to take contact from a police officer and, if need be, pay attention to what is occurring and be willing to testify in court, Derr said.

As public safety director, Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said unruly behavior anywhere in the city is unacceptable and won’t be permitted to continue.