The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


January 20, 2013

Crime panel a welcome addition

Drugs, violence are focus of commission

— The city’s Drug and Crime Commission officially has taken wings, an effort suburban Johnstown residents, too, should embrace.

With focus on a recent homicide in Richland Township and the completion of a murder trial downtown dealing with a fatal shooting in the city’s Oakhurst section, a panel looking into both drugs and violence seems very appropriate.

The mission, we’re told, is to determine whether there has been an uptick in overall crime in the city, and, if so, why and to decide on a course of action.

What no one in the Johnstown area should surmise is that the panel’s work concerns only city residents and businesses and commuters working in the city.

It’s more meaningful. As we’ve seen so often, crime doesn’t stop at boundary lines.

As reported by our Dave Sutor, the commission is the brainchild of Mayor Thomas Trigona and Councilman Pete Vizza.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction whatever fruits come out of it,” Vizza said.    

In an informational meeting with our editorial board, Trigona and state Rep. Bryan Barbin, committee chairman, said the commission is structured after similar panels in Altoona and McKeesport, Allegheny County.

We’re particularly buoyed by the cross section of community leaders who have agreed to step up and work on different facets of the commission.

In addition to Barbin, Michael Walther, former National Drug Intelligence Center director, will serve in an oversight role. His expertise on drugs and in data accumulation and research should be invaluable.

“We needed a panel that was diverse. It would have to represent the community as a whole,” Barbin said.

We like the timeline also.

Barbin said it’s expected a report will be ready for release to the public after  six months of meetings.

“These (panel members) all have busy schedules and we can’t expect them to go on indefinitely,” Barbin said.

Come midsummer, we hope to see the fruits of this panel.

We all desire and deserve to live and work in a safe and friendly community. The Drug and Crime Commission will help determine how that can be accomplished.

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