The Lancaster County Crime Summit Re-Convened following the County Commissioners meeting and elections board on Wednesday to present their findings and recommendations.
The Summit had been called by the Lancaster County Commissioners in June to research the state of public safety in the community. Three primary areas were addressed: Law Enforcement, Re-Entry Management, and Prevention.
Chief Richard Garipoli, President of the Lancaster County Chiefs of Police Association, described the recommendations relating to law enforcement. These include:
> Establishing a central regional booking area for crimes so that more police can spend more time on the streets
> Improving collaboration and communications using the radio project
> Improving the records management system
> Making combating gang activity a priority
> Improving the timely release of information about crimes to the media
> Using cameras in neighborhoods to help catch criminals in the act
Scott Sheely of the Lancaster County Workforce investment board prepared the Summit's recommendations with regard to Re-Entry management. These include:
> Not necessarily needing to build a new prison. Instead establishing a day-reporting center where ex-offenders would receive individual assessments and assistance to help prevent recidivism.
> Making sure we have adequate, affordable housing for ex-offenders and communities willing to give them a second chance
> Jobs for people coming out of prison and employers willing to give them a second chance
> The need to improve communication and establish common goals between re-entry management and the rest of the system
> Support the establishment and implementation of the drug court and mental health court
> Support homeless shelters like the Community Homeless Outreach Center where recently-released convicts can stay and can get connected to the services they need
> Support programs like CarreerLink that can help people with the skills and resources they need to get back into the workplace
Dave Bender, the Executive Director of the Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, presented the Summit's recommendations with regard to prevention. the "Prevention Team's" overarching recommendation was that the Commissioners assemble a planning team to further identify the causes, effects, and prevalence of crime in the community, and to involve all of the municipalities in a joint discussion of information and strategies. The prevention team also recommends hiring someone to do grant-writing on behalf of the County to help secure more funding.
Columbia Mayor Leo Lutz, who also now sits on the Lancaster County Planning Commission, struck a forward-looking note when he said that the true challenge will be for the County and municipalities to implement strategies that work while working within a constricted budget during these difficult economic times.
District Attorney Craig Stedman thanked the Commissioners for calling the Summit, saying, "There is no question that for a community to flourish, there needs to be a foundation of public safety."
Commissioner Chairman Dennis Stuckey spoke of the need for coordination, saying, "everyone has a mission, but they're not connected. This allows us to take a first step in that direction."
Commissioner Craig Lehman agreed, noting that "Crime... doesn't begin or end just base on a political line drawn on a map."
Commissioner Scott Martin, who spearheded the effort to hold a crime summit said, "Crime is a burden on the community. It affects our wallets."
He went on to say that the Commissioners will be working on drawing up a plan for crime prevention strategies over the coming weeks and months.
The final report of the Lancaster County Crime Summit can be found in its entirety at http://www.co.lancaster.pa.us/lanco/lib/lanco/2008_Crime_Summit_Report.pdf.