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January 14, 2014

Shenango police to start crime watch

NEW CASTLE — Shenango Township residents will soon be using technology to fight crime in their neighborhoods.

Police Superintendent Bill Phillips said a new crime watch program will use texting and email as its main weapons.

For example, if there is a burglary in the Castlewood neighborhood, a township police officer will email and text a description of the suspect to everyone in that neighborhood who has signed up for the alerts. Because each patrol car is capable of email and texting, this system allows a police officer to get the information out immediately.

Phillips said the use of technology to combat crime was the idea of the young officers on the force. The department is one of the few that have a Facebook page it uses to announce arrests and communicate with residents.

As a retired state police trooper who had worked in crime watches elsewhere, Phillips said he knows how helpful it can be to have “one hundred eyes instead of two eyes” looking for suspects.

A crime watch also is a “two-way street” with police providing information to residents and vice versa for it to work, he said.

The neighborhood groups would meet two to four times a year and would not require the traditional monthly crime watch meetings, captains or calling trees, he said.

Phillips expects to conduct the first neighborhood meeting by the end of February or beginning of March, although he is not sure which neighborhood will be first. The meetings will be separated by neighborhood because their crime issues vary.

For example, he said, four-wheelers are a summer problem in the Clifton Flats area, but not in other neighborhoods.

The initial meetings will be to find out the needs of each neighborhood. Then, anyone who wants to can sign up for alerts and notifications.

Another facet of the effort is that policeman Danny Tressler and his canine Drago are being designated crime prevention officers. Phillips said he is looking over various crime prevention programs and may adopt one.

Officers also will be made available to advise residents on how to make their homes or businesses less vulnerable to crime.

Other efforts are under way at the police department to better fight crime. Phillips listed these as:

•Cataloging township alarm systems and compiling a list of contacts for when alarms sound.

•Designating one officer in charge of updating protection from abuse orders.

•Adding “Shenango’s Most Wanted” to the website and designating one officer in charge of warrants.

•Appointing an intelligence officer to keep better tabs on known offenders.

Phillips said these functions were carried out informally in the past but he believes the new system will be more efficient.

These additional functions are being done without any increase in wages, Phillips noted.

Since he took over the department in 2010, Phillips said, he has aimed to make it more community oriented. He said that last summer, he named one sergeant and two corporals to improve communication on all shifts. The sergeant is Darrin Cwynar and the corporals are Clint Garver and David Lough.

He also has designated a drug enforcement officer and a sex assault/child abuse investigator.

The department has seven full-time and two part-time officers.

(Email: grzebieniak@ncnewsonline.com)

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