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Chambersburg cracking down on petty crimes

May 10, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A "zero tolerance" policy aimed at reducing serious crime by vigorously enforcing minor laws will be announced at Wednesday's Borough Council meeting, according to Mayor Robert P. Morris.

Strict borough-wide enforcement of curfew, littering, trespassing, public drinking and other laws could begin this week, Morris said Monday. Up to now, it has been left to individual police officers to decide whether to write citations for minor violations.

"With zero tolerance, the police officer is expected to write up a citation on the spot for any violation," the mayor said.

The issue was discussed Monday at a community meeting called by the Rev. W. Larry Johnson, Third Ward councilman, to organize a Neighborhood Watch program in the ward.

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"Every level of lawlessness that is permitted leads to the next level of lawlessness ... and that can work in reverse," Third Ward Councilman Carl Helman said after the meeting. By enforcing laws against minor crimes, police can deter serious crime, he said.

"The mayor's position is it has to be (all of) Chambersburg," not just the crime-plagued Third Ward, Johnson said.

"That's the only way it can be fairly applied," Helman said. The practical effect, however, will be that the strictest enforcement will be in areas with the most crime, he said.

Patrolman Will Frisby said zero tolerance is a tool primarily used in high-crime areas. "You don't need to enforce it everywhere. That's my opinion," Frisby told the two dozen people at the meeting.

Frisby said residents must prepare for zero tolerance. It will mean tickets for parking too far from the curb or too close to a fire hydrant.

"We're going to be the bad guys" for handing out citations for minor offenses to both law-abiding and lawbreaking residents, Frisby said.

Helman said the zero-tolerance issue was raised last week at a meeting of the Third Ward Community Task Force, a group formed after a fatal shooting in March.

He said enforcing minor laws in New York City led to a reduction in major crime. When Hagerstown, Md., Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II called for a zero-tolerance policy, Helman was encouraged to raise the issue here.

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