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Chambersburg adopts zero-tolerance policy

May 12, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In response to complaints from residents about violence and drug activity in the Third Ward, Chambersburg Mayor Robert Morris said Wednesday he has instructed the police department to adopt a borough-wide zero-tolerance policy.

"We can't single out one neighborhood, so I'm afraid the rest of the wards will have to deal with this, as well," Morris told the council.

The mayor is in charge of the police department and the new policy does not require council action.

Patrol officers will be instructed to immediately write citations or make arrests for trespassing, littering, public urination, curfew, open container and parking violations and a host of other summary offenses. Earlier this week Third Ward Councilman Carl Helman said he believed enforcing these laws will curb more serious crime.

Loitering, however, will not be among the offenses police will crack down on. Chambersburg and other municipalities over the years have repealed loitering ordinances because of their questionable constitutionality.

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Borough Attorney Thomas J. Finucane said he will look over examples of loitering laws that are still in use in the state to see if they can be used as models for a borough ordinance. He said he had serious questions about two examples from other municipalities he had been shown.

"It's my firm belief law-abiding citizens won't object to this," Helman said. The policy could result in a large increase in summary citations being handled through District Justice Gary Carter's office.

Morris said the new policy "does not absolve residents from standing up and being a witness" when crimes occur in their neighborhoods.

Residents of the Third Ward formed a task force after a March 1 shooting outside Dave's Tavern at 401 S. Main St. The idea for the zero-tolerance policy was first raised at one of its meetings.

Members also are trying to start a neighborhood watch program with block captains who would compile information about suspicious activity and report it to police.

"How come probation isn't out there busting people?" Robin Thomas asked after the meeting. Thomas, of 422 S. Main St., has volunteered to be a block captain.

She said many of the people dealing drugs on the streets of her neighborhood are on parole or probation and the Franklin County Probation Department could help police fight the crime problem.

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