Last updated: February 19. 2013 8:03PM - 416 Views

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Greater Pittston Regional Police Department?

A group of public officials were given the pitch Wednesday night to consolidate services.

Ron Stern, a member of the state Department of Community and Economic Development's Center for Local Government Services, offered the state's help.

Stern said the area comprises 26.3 square miles and includes Pittston, Avoca, Duryea, Dupont, Hughestown, Jenkins Township, Laflin and Yatesville.

The area has 26,000 people and collectively cost $2.2 million for public safety in 2011, Stern said.

The combined departments have 18 full-time and 66 part-time officers.

State Sen. John Yudichak, D-Nanticoke, discussed a West Side police force that was proposed 10 years ago in Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Larksville and Edwardsville.

It broke down because of politics, because of parochialism, he said. All the numbers were there. All the logic was there. It failed because of politics.

He said there's often a sense by municipal officials that they were ceding control of their community.

There are folks that didn't want to give up control over hiring those officers, he said. Some folks just like things the way they are. They don't like change.

But Yudichak stressed that criminals don't care about municipal boundaries.

It's a fragmented system of local law enforcements and it makes it easier for criminals to do their thing, he said We have to get ahead of it. And regionalization may be the answer.

He said his office would prepare a feasibility study, with seven sections, to examine if a regional police force would work in the area.

The demographics section would compare population, square miles and other such statistics.

The fiscal data section would analyze each of the general funds and pull out public safety expenses.

We'd map it out so it's easy to see what you're paying, what your neighbor is paying, Stern said.

Manpower section would look at how many officers and hours are needed in the new department and an organization section would set up a new department, from the chief down. It would also map out any specialty departments such as a detective division or K-9 unit.

The budget and cost allocation sections are the most scrutinized.

The budget section will compare each municipality's true cost of public safety. Everything is considered in this section, from salary and benefits, to janitorial serves and toilet paper.

We need a true cost because there has to be a way to compare apples to apples, Stern said.

And cost allocations is what every municipality must pay, based on factors such as population, road miles or tax assessment.

And finally, a conclusion/recommendation section.

We may recommend going ahead with it, or we may not think it's a good idea at this time, he said.

Stern said the study could take between 4 and 6 months to complete.

Getting municipalities to work together is difficult, he said. We can start small and build on that. Once other communities see you've got a good product and it's functioning well, they're going to come in.

Yudichak stressed that the towns would have complete control over forming a department.

You're going to construct the department, Yudichak said. It will be a reflection of your years of experience, your understanding of your communities, your budgets.

He said total amount all the municipalities spend is $2.2 million, or about $85 a person, a year.

What's the best product you can put on the street? he said. I would argue there's probably a better way to spend $2.2 million. You're probably not getting the best bang for your buck.

State Rep. Mike Carroll, D-Avoca, said crime is on the rise in Greater Pittston.

We are all facing difficult financial times, Carroll said. We need to put our heads together and find out if there's a way we can provide the best possible police service to our citizens, with an eye on price and an eye on being able to meet the needs of the community.

Jenkins Township already has an agreement to patrol Yatesville. Neither municipality was represented at the meeting.

Ron Stern, a member of the state DCED's Center for Local Government Services, said the area comprises 26.3 square miles and includes Pittston, Avoca, Duryea, Dupont, Hughestown, Jenkins Township, Laflin and Yatesville.

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