"Community involvement is a good thing and the (Schuylkill County) District Attorney's Office will do everything it can to work with such groups and help communities become safer."
Schuylkill County DA Karen Byrnes-Noon offered these comments when she met with members of the Tamaqua Safety Initiative last week. Byrnes-Noon went on to provide details of several current initiatives under way involving her office, including a toll free, crime tip hot line administered by the county.
The hot line, at 1-800-832-3313, has generated mostly drug related tips from the western section of the county, but all county residents are encouraged to use it.
"Once we receive a tip, our detectives begin an investigation and contact the police department responsible for that area or follow through with the investigation in those communities who do not have individual police forces. Tamaqua is lucky to have a full-time force, which means there can be an immediate response. Drug cases are handled by the Schuylkill County Drug Task Force, which includes several members of Tamaqua's police department," Byrnes-Noon continued.
Currently, the hot line is advertised on several billboards in the western section of Schuylkill County. After suggestions from TSI members, Byrnes-Noon agreed to look into the possibility of supplying hot line posters which could then be posted in windows of interested parties.
The DA went on to explain other programs offered by her office and asked TSI members if they had any suggestions or questions on ways to work together. Tamaqua's newly enacted "quality of life ordinance" and code violations were the hottest topics. The process of addressing nuisance properties is involved and time consuming. The borough's new quality of life ordinance will streamline the process a bit, but all agreed more improvements are needed in order to ensure neglected/blighted properties are brought up to code.
Crime Watch organizer Andy Leibenguth offered information on ways to revamp the way the organization runs, including an increased use of technical devices in place of/or in addition to routine patrols. A discussion was also held concerning the borough's former Hilde-Nix Safe House Program and ways to revive it.
Police Chief Dave Mattson provided an update on the borough's safety/security cameras that are currently in use. The project has entered its next phase and additional phases are being prioritized.
The chief also noted "there has been a decrease in certain types of crime reported in the areas currently covered by the cameras. I'm not saying crime has disappeared from those areas, but our efforts are having an impact."
Initiative coordinator Leona Rega noted the recent cold snap has delayed the two projects that were planned for this week. The camera project and walking tour have been rescheduled for Jan. 31.
Rega also provided information on a Homes of Honor Parenting Class, which will be held at the art center at 7 p.m. on Feb. 5. The free, eight weekly sessions offer information on ways to become a better parent and develop closer relationships and better communication with your children. Topics include building a close knit family, motivational techniques, setting limits through contracts and more.
TSI is a grass roots community group composed of private citizens, business owners and community leaders. The group is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Tamaqua residents. The Mauch Chunk Street Corridor was selected as the initial target area, due in some part to the number of crimes reportedly committed in the area.
The group meets every month in the Tamaqua Community Arts Center, 125 Pine St. The next meeting will be held at 8 a.m. on Feb. 28. The public is welcome to attend.
For more information about the TSI, or the parenting class, contact Rega at (570) 668-1192.