Mobile Street Crime Unit Making Northeastern Pennsylvania Safer
April 15, 2014
Violent street crime is not just a Hazleton problem or a Wilkes-Barre problem; it is a regional problem that demands regional solutions, regional community engagement and an investment of statewide resources. A 2011 US Department of Justice report showed that criminal gangs and drug trafficking organizations were getting a foothold in communities along the 80/81 corridor; pushing drugs into our neighborhoods and making the nature of our street crime, more and more violent.
We all knew we had to do something to keep our communities, our streets and our schools safe; so a few years ago, I partnered with Congressman Lou Barletta and founded Operation Gang Up as a vehicle to build regional solutions and to raise public awareness about the region's growing violent street crime problem. Operation Gang Up has since helped bring together our region through public forums, programs for area schools, local law enforcement training and the enactment of Pennsylvania’s first anti-gang law.
Operation Gang Up has made a great deal of progress but its most important success has been opening the lines of communication among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Working with these front line professionals, we formulated the idea of creating a mobile street crime unit to bring together federal, state and local resources into one powerful, efficient and effective crime fighting weapon to disrupt and dismantle criminal street crime operations.
With the support of many area police chiefs, including Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea, I sat with Attorney General Kathleen Kane at her kitchen table and laid out our idea for a Mobile Street Crime Unit and she ran with it. The Mobile Street Crime Unit, which has now wrapped up operations in the city of Hazleton, is the ultimate regional crime fighting tool – pooling federal, state and local resources into one focused, force multiplier that ripples across municipal and county boundaries.
With a population of 33,000 but only 38 police officers – Hazleton, which had seen a dramatic increase in violent and drug-related crimes in recent years, was the perfect city to launch the Attorney General’s Mobile Street Crime Unit.
The Mobile Street Crime Unit is only on its first deployment – but the impact it has had on public safety in the city of Hazleton and across NEPA has been remarkable and the results have been even greater than any of us could have imagined. In only five months, “Operation Rising Star,” in conjunction with 16 local, state and federal agencies, identified numerous drug trafficking organizations in the Hazleton area. To date, the Mobile Street Crime Unit has accounted for over 100 arrests, approximately 35,000 packets of heroin seized and has removed many other drugs, guns and illegal prescription drugs from the streets of Hazleton.
Attorney General Kane and I fought hard to secure $2.5 million in the state budget with tremendous help from a coalition of bi-partisan supporters – and it is proposed at level funding in the governor’s proposed 2014-15 state budget to move the initiative to another city.
I applaud Attorney General Kane for listening to the people of northeastern Pennsylvania; for staring down the critics and the naysayers; and for finding the right partners at the federal, state and local levels to fund, implement and deploy Pennsylvania’s newest and most innovative regional law enforcement weapon – the Mobile Street Crime Unit – right here in NEPA.
To view media coverage from the event, visit the Times Leader and the Standard Speaker. Click here to view a gallery of pictures from the event at Hazleton City Hall.
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