Police department matters including an introduction of new officers and a citizen’s report on suspected drug and gang activity were addressed by Mount Union officials Wednesday during borough council’s monthly meeting.
In addition, council’s public safety chairman took a moment during committee reports to dispel rumors which he said have been circulating about the borough’s police sergeant and mayor.
Wayne Querry said the rumors accusing Sgt. Justin Inch and Mayor Tim Allison of illegal activity were brought to his attention and, concerned about potential damage to the two men’s reputations, told fellow council members he wanted it publicly known he believes the rumors to be false.
“My conclusion is they aren’t valid,” Querry said.
President Carol Kuklo expressed concerned about raising the issue in public session, saying if anyone on council actually believed there was any truth in the tales, someone, including herself, would have taken action.
Office Jonathan Marsh, who was present during Quarry’s report, as was the mayor, said the police department is aware of the rumors and, because of potential defamation issues, is looking at how they were spread and by whom.
“People in town, in this room, are spreading rumors about our sergeant and our mayor, Marsh said. “We will get to the bottom of it.”
Also in his report, Querry said he’s been asking to join Inch for a ride-along and the request was recently fulfilled. He reported that he appreciated the experience of seeing the sergeant on the job.
Joan Rogers added she feels more can be done to improve communication between council members and borough officers.
Marsh said one of the reasons himself and fellow officers attend the monthly meetings is to give council members opportunity to ask questions. Rogers said she feels there should be more opportunity for one-on-one communication; Marsh said he’s willing to arrange such meetings.
During his report to council, Mayor Allison introduced the two newest members of the borough’s police force, Aaron Wagner and Hunter Deavor. Council and community members extended their welcome.
Wagner shared that he grew up in Petersburg, is a gradate of Juniata Valley High School and currently resides in Alexandria. Wagner, who is a Navy veteran, is also active with the Duncansville police force.
Deavor said he’s a lifelong resident of McVeytown. He is a recent police academy graduate; Mount Union is his first post as a police officer.
When Hunter and Deavor were hired in September; the move increased the department’s officers from three to five. The new additions serve along side Inch, Marsh and Derek Bledsoe.
Allison said Wagner and Deavor are still in training and are doing well. He said once they complete training, the department will be able to provide round-the-clock coverage.
Resident Cameron Williams reported to could that for the past 14 months he’s been making observations and collecting data relative to drug- and gang-related activity in Mount Union. Williams said he is concerned about an influx of gang members arriving from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Harrisburg.
“They are coming with gun and the guns are making it into the schools,” he said.
William made a similar presentation to the Mount Union Area School Board during their most recent meeting Oct. 28.
Williams told council he recently spoke with the mayor about ways to combat such issues, including launching a block captain program and setting up an anonymous tip-line allowing residents to report suspected criminal activity.
Williams said to date, he’s identified 11 residents willing to serve as block captains and is working to recruit more.
Without a cooperative effort between police, council and residents at large, Williams said he fears the worst for Mount Union.
“Our town will be taken over by drug dealers and gang members,” he said. “They will swallow this town up.”
Mayor Allison said he appreciates Williams’ concerns.
“He’s not exaggerating — they can take over,” he said, adding the recent hires in the department strengthens policing efforts. He said he’s already seeing a difference but advised community members to remain patient.
“You don’t regain everything in two days,” she said.
Rogers shared that when she moved back to Mount Union about five years ago, it wasn’t long before the house next door was occupied by persons she strongly suspected of selling drugs.
“They were dealing day and night,” she said, adding the activity stopped only when the individuals moved out.
“It’s going to take the efforts of everyone to be conscientious about the drug-dealing going on,” she said.
Mary Crawley added that as much effort is as expected from police and borough leaders, she said she wants the community to remember efforts to stop crime begin in the home with parents.
“They need to train kids on the difference between right and wrong,” she said.
Mary Hancock said she would like to see the borough and the school district revisit the idea of creating a school resource officer position. Marsh said enough there is no official program, officers have established a relationship with the district by participating in events and assisting with safety drills. He said Bledsoe makes a point to stop in at the high school for visits.
Allison presented his monthly statistical report on department activities. For the month of October, the department made six criminal arrests and five juvenile arrests; issued five traffic citations, two non-traffic citations and five written warning; and receives 71 call for service.
Year-to-date, 45 criminal arrests, 20 juvenile arrests and 11 DUI arrests have been made while 192 traffic citations, 43 non-traffic citations and 40 written warnings were issued. So far for 2019, the department has responded to 886 calls.
Allison recognized officer Bledsoe for assisting in a recent medical emergency involving a newborn. The mayor said Bledsoe was blocks away when the call came in and was first on the scene, thus was able to beginning providing care.
“He made a difference,” Allison said.
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