Thompson: crime down since safety zone initiative - abc27 WHTM

Thompson: crime down since safety zone initiative

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Though there have been nine homicides in Harrisburg so far this year, Mayor Linda Thompson said violent crime has been down since the start of her Neighborhood Safety Zone (NSZ) program about three months ago.

Like NSZ one and two, the latest NSZ targeted Allison Hill. In the fourth phase of the initiative, Thompson said there was a 0.8 percent reduction in violent crimes. The mayor attributed that success to keeping criminals guessing during her NSZ program.

"This neighborhood safe zone is mobile," said Thompson. "It is mobile. It's not stationed in one neighborhood. It's mobile, we move on."

While Thompson announced NSZ five started on Thursday, she gave results from NSZ four today. For two weeks in May, Thompson said police focused on the area around 15th and Market Streets.

The mayor said police charged at least four people on various violation, charged four with escape, handed out 26 traffic citation, and recovered one illegal gun – a .40 caliber weapon. Thompson said police charged a few others with minor drug possession and misdemeanors.

To help police crack down on crime in this area, Thompson said Public Works recently shed a light on a big problem.

"We've had a serious issue with lights being shot out," she said.

Thompson explained that darkness helps hide illegal activity. Public Works spent about $1,200 and repaired 51 street lamps.

Neighborhood residents were hesitant to speak with abc27 about crime in their neighborhood. One person who spoke with abc27 off-camera said they feared retaliation if they were caught speaking with the media.

Thompson said public safety has been one of her top priorities since she took office and said that will not change as she serves out her final months in office.

Thompson said she spoke with Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico on Tuesday to ask for more resources. Thompson said Marsico obliged and the county will pay for surrounding police departments to patrol Harrisburg streets starting this weekend.

This is similar to the initiative started last August. Harrisburg Police welcomed the help. Susquehanna Township Police Chief Rob Martin organized the supplemental group and his team recorded 70 arrests last year.

Thompson also said she secured an undetermined amount of county funds to help pay city officers for more overtime. Thompson said she has been a strong supporter of police walking the beat, despite complaints of low manpower.

When Thompson took office, the police department had 171 officers on the force. Currently, the department has 130. Thompson claimed she is not responsible for the decrease and said the Act 47 process, pension reductions and retirees are the reason 41 officers have left.

Thompson also fired back when asked about police response time. She said the situation to keep cops in cars or walk the beat is a catch-22.

"[I've heard complaints that] if we take cops out of the cars and walk the beat, they won't be able to respond quickly to another scene," Thompson said. "So, it's darned if we do, darned if we don't."

As far as the NSZ program, Thompson stands firm and believes it is working. So much so, she said whoever becomes the next mayor of Harrisburg should continue.

"This initiative is not a dog and pony show," said Thompson. "We come out braggadociously to talk about the success of this program."

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