Chambersburg mayoral election focuses on crime

October 30, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Using statistics that rank Chambersburg second in Pennsylvania for the highest violent crime rate per capita, Republican mayoral candidate Douglas Niemond is focusing on getting tougher on drugs and crime in his campaign against three-term incumbent Mayor Robert P. Morris.

The four-year term for mayor is the only contested race in the borough in Tuesday's general election.

According to the 1996 Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report, Chambersburg reported eight serious crimes per 100 residents - about 60 percent assaults - second only to the city of Reading, Pa., with 10 per 100 residents.

Philadelphia, Harrisburg, York and Allentown each reported seven violent crimes per 100 people, according to the report.

"I want to be very tough on crime and drugs in the community ... I'd like to see us get the crime rate down," said Niemond, who's lived in Chambersburg for 41 years.


In 1996, Chambersburg, with a population of 17,000, had 344 assaults, two murders, four rapes, 23 robberies, 129 burglaries, 797 thefts, 45 vehicle thefts and 12 arsons, according to the report.

Morris, a Democrat and Chambersburg native, said his only explanation for the numbers is that there's a high reporting rate in Chambersburg, whereas some crime in big cities goes unreported.

What the statistics don't show is that Chambersburg's police department has a high crime-solving rate, Morris said.

"Our detective department has been able to solve almost all of the burglaries and robberies in Chambersburg," he said.

Despite the statistics, Morris said he's doing what he can within the constraints of the borough's budget and stands by his record.

Since he's been in office, four full-time police officers have been added to the department, along with a motorcycle unit, bicycle patrol, equestrian patrol, emergency response team and video cameras in the police cruisers. Two canine units also have been added, with a third planned for next year, Morris said.

Both candidates would like to increase the number and visibility of police officers, and modernize the department with technology.

Retired after more than 34 years as superintendent of recreation for the borough and four years as Franklin County commissioner, Niemond said he also wants to make the mayor's job full time.

That means opening the office to the public several days a week, working with the schools, continuing to promote the downtown and working with neighborhood groups, he said.

"I think it might be time for a change, new blood, new ideas," Niemond said.

Morris, in his 31st year as a guidance counselor at James Buchanan Middle School in Mercersburg, Pa., said he has made himself accessible to the public with office hours every day after school and during the summer.

"I feel I've done a good job as mayor. I'll try very hard to do a fine job the next term," he said.

The Herald-Mail Articles