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Combating rising crime

They are the kind of statistics sure to bring fear to every responsible adult residing in Tamaqua.

As of January of this year, eight registered sex offenders were residing in the borough. Between 2009 and 2011, the crime rate in Tamaqua escalated when it came to crimes of rape (133 percent increase) and robberies (700 percent).These statistics caught the attention of law enforcement, community and civic leaders, who became determined to make a difference.When Tamaqua Police Chief Richard Weaver shared these alarming facts with Tamaqua Borough Council and members of the Tamaqua Safety Initiative, it sparked an immediate effort to find ways to combat the upsurge in violence within the community. Research led to the Green Dot Program, an organization dedicated to reducing violence "one green dot" (community) at a time.Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Tamaqua has been selected as ground zero for bringing the Green Dot Program to Schuylkill County.An overview of the program, as well as its implementation, was provided to community leaders on Thursday during the monthly meeting of the Tamaqua Safety Initiative. Stephanie Barron, vice president of the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center of Schuylkill and Lebanon counties was on hand to explain the Green Dot Program and ask for help from the community at large."SARCC will provide an extensive training session in March, focusing on a bystander intervention program," she said. "The four days of intensive training will be the kick off to our campaign to reduce violence. While the program will be based in Tamaqua, the training is available to interested parties in surrounding areas."Leona Rega, coordinator of TSI, sees the Green Dot Program as "a perfect fit with our goals and mission to create a more vibrant community environment for the future. We are happy to support SARCC in offering a Green Dot Program to the community."Tamaqua Mayor Chris Morrison agreed the program is "an opportunity to stand in front of the problems addressed in the Green Dot roll out.""Big city issues have been infiltrating small towns like Tamaqua," he said. "It is up to us whether we arm our community with the tools to deal with the issue and Tamaqua has always been a proactive community."Tamaqua Borough Council President Micah Gursky added "Tamaquans have a choice. We can be bystanders who don't know what to do or we can be bystanders who do know what to do. With Green Dot training, local people can have the skills to prevent and stop the violence around us."The program is designed to target community members by engaging them through awareness, education and skills-practice. The end goal is to help residents to stop accepting violence as a norm and become intolerant of violence against anyone, especially the youth and elderly, as well as foster talks among those on the front lines in keeping Pennsylvania safe.Barron is looking for participation from local residents, law enforcement, hospitals, schools/colleges, clergy, victim agencies and gatekeepers who will then share their knowledge and training with the rest of the community. The training will be held at Lehigh Carbon Community College's Morgan Center in Tamaqua from March 17 through March 20, 2014. For those unable to commit to the four-day training session, March 17 will include a first day overview at 9 a.m., a general session open to the public.To learn more about Green Dot training, or to register, contact Barron at


KATHY KUNKEL/TIMES NEWS Stephanie Barron, vice president of the Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center (SARCC) of Schuylkill and Lebanon counties, and Leona Rega, Tamaqua Safety Initiative Coordinator, are working together to establish a Green Dot Program designed to end violence in the community.