To reduce street-level drug dealing and curb violent crime in Williamsport, city police and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said some strategic changes were made this week.
City Patrolman Aaron LeVan has been promoted to corporal and city police Sgt. Kris Moore retains his rank but will supervise the recently deployed special operations group, which will fight drug-related crime and wear all-black uniforms.
LeVan's hourly rate goes from $31.73 to $33 per hour. Moore maintains a sergeant's salary of $34.32 per hour, according to police Chief Gregory A. Foresman.
LeVan also has more than five years of experience and successfully completed a civil service examination that placed him on the promotional list. The difference between the rank is 4 percent annually, or $2,000 a year, according to Foresman and the latest salary information released in February.
Moore is a veteran officer who is experienced at working on investigations involving drug interdiction and stopping street-level crimes, according to Foresman. It was necessary to have an officer in a supervisory role with this kind of experience, he added.
"We're being proactive in our efforts to reduce the amount of street-level dealing," Foresman said. "In order to do that, we implement policies that were successful to us in the past and, to effectively change the assignment, one person had to be promoted."
The officers on the team overseen by Moore are dressing in all black, as opposed to dark blue, uniforms.
"It is meant for visual and image effect," Foresman said.
The changes are a result of a recent news conference by Lycoming County District Attorney Eric R. Linhardt.
Linhardt said the rise in crime and violence Williamsport and the surrounding communities are experiencing is directly related to an increase in heroin use.
South Williamsport Police Chief Robert Hetner said heroin addicts are driving an hour or more to get their fix and shoot up in his community.
Old Lycoming Township Police Chief William Solomon said he has arrested individuals from Tioga and Bradford counties who are shooting up in store parking lots along Lycoming Creek Road.
"They consider the city a hub," Solomon said.
"Experience matters," Campana said, adding he believes the changes authorized after the conference will make a difference the public will notice.