The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


April 9, 2013

Commission is for residents’ benefit

Drug, crime panel seeks citizens’ input

— We applaud the nearly two dozen West End residents and city and county leaders who came together last Thursday for ongoing organized discussions into criminal activity in Johnstown.

It was the second neighborhood meeting held by the city’s Drug and Crime Commission. The first took place in Moxham.

While officials obviously were pleased with the input they received, we suspect they were as disappointed as we were that more citizens didn’t attend.

“It was really good to hear these fresh ideas and to hear firsthand what the people in these neighborhoods are dealing with,” said Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan, who filled in for First Assistant District Attorney Heath Long, a usual member of the commission. 

“I know, in my job, I can see by the police complaints that are filed what’s going on crimewise in the county. But I got a better picture and a better understanding here of what people are dealing with daily in their neighborhoods that maybe is not charged as a crime, but concerns them.”

Seven of the 12 commission members were on hand: Mike Walther, police Chief Craig Foust, the Rev. Sylvia King, Bill McKinney, Rev. Robert Wagner, John Slezak and state Rep. Bryan Barbin.

After working all day, they probably would have enjoyed a free evening relaxing with family and friends. However, their drive to help others brought them to the meeting at Christ the Saviour Educational Center. Too bad more residents didn’t feel the same way.

“I think it’s important for people to understand what’s going on because, if they do, they’re more likely to participate and make the situation better,” said Barbin, the commission’s chairman.

We agree. Several commission members encouraged citizens to be active in helping to reduce crime by reporting suspicious behavior and being involved in their communities.

The work of the commission has been well publicized, as has its scheduled meetings. 

There’s not much residents can accomplish by sitting on a bar stool or a neighbor’s swing while lamenting and venting crime concerns. Area officials have responded. The Drug and Crime Commission is a wonderful concept that has brought together concerned, dedicated community leaders poised to realize a commendable mission. They are seeking citizen input so they can formulate a plan to address what many believe to be growing violence and crime in our neighborhoods. They can’t do this alone.

They shouldn’t have to.

The ball is rolling, meetings are being held, and it’s up to those who this will benefit most to be a part of this effort.

Public meetings

The Drug and Crime Commission’s remaining regular meetings are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 9 and June 13 at the Public Safety Building on Washington Street. Additional special neighborhood sessions will be announced in this newspaper. Meetings are open to the public.


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What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

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