New Castle News

June 8, 2013

City police introduce street crimes unit

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The New Castle police are stepping up law enforcement efforts with a new street crimes unit.

Police Chief Bobby Salem said that beginning Monday, two four-man teams of officers will concentrate on the types of criminal activity that demand more police attention than a standard patrol response.

“The unit will aggressively address street-level narcotics issues, prostitution violations, quality of life issues and rowdy situations and will supplement the everyday operations of the uniformed patrol division,” Salem explained.

He said that if problems occur in a certain area, the team will focus on that area and will be flexible, time-wise, on a 24-hour-a-day basis.

“They’ll be handling street-level things that need attention at the moment,” Salem said. “They won’t be involved in long-term investigations.”

The unit will help the detective and narcotics bureaus in research and building and implementing operations for such crimes as burglaries, robberies, thefts and other trends within the city.

The high-impact team also will be a fugitive apprehension unit, aggressively pursuing offenders in the city who are wanted on warrants.

The unit will work with the Lawrence County Housing Authority to address criminal activity and other problems around or within public housing complexes in the city and at Crestview Gardens.

The goals are to reduce high-crime areas, deter future crime, identify offenders and arrest suspects, Salem said, and the unit will enhance existing shifts of police officers.

The department also has foot patrols that boost its crime-fighting efforts.

Pat Schwoebel, who is instrumental in a North Hill crime watch group, said she is happy to hear about the department’s new unit. She said she and her neighbors have seen a difference in the crime in her neighborhood with stepped-up police patrol efforts.

“I think the police department is doing a great job teaming up and focusing on more targeted areas,” she said.

The crime watch group spans most of the North Hill. Schwoebel clips the crime reporting forms out of the newspaper and attaches them to papers that are distributed to the residents door-to-door.

“Those forms and the drug hotline our district attorney uses have made a significant difference,” she said. “Because everything is anonymous, I think that makes people feel more secure about reporting things.”

“I know on our own street, the majority of people were reluctant to participate, but a few were more determined, and they saw it was working and are doing it more as a joint effort.”

Schwoebel knows of one neighbor who sits and writes down a description of every strange car on her street and its license plate.

The watch group started four years ago. Its next meeting is planned for 6:30 p.m. June 25 at George Washington Intermediate Elementary School.

Schwoebel has an email list of more than 50 people in the area she contacts.

“We try to get people to just do their own street,” she said, “covering them with fliers door to door.”

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)