The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 14, 2013

Walther’s background fits role on commission

Dave Sutor

JOHNSTOWN — Mike Walther is the statistics guy for Johnstown’s Drug and Crime Commission.

He has been given the responsibility of analyzing data to determine trends in the city’s criminal activity.

The assignment is apropos, considering his background.

Walther recently opened his own law practice after spending nearly two full decades as a federal prosecutor and executive. The New Orleans native previously worked as director of the Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center, a Johnstown-based organization that provided narcotics intelligence for the counter-drug community.

“He has more experience than anybody else in the city with gathering information about drug-related crime because he served in many positions in the Department of Justice, but, the most important one, he ran the National Drug Intelligence Center here in Johnstown for a long period of time,” said state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, the commission’s chairman. “He interfaced with the FBI, the ATF, the DEA. He knows all of the problems there are to know.”

Information gathered by Walther and other commission members will be used to help the Johnstown Police Department in its fight against crime.

“The thing about intelligence and statistics is they can’t identify the perpetrator of a crime, but what we can look for is trends in criminal activity that help us decide, do we have a large enough police force and are they deployed in the right fashion?” Walther said.

Walther has already made some initial findings since the commission started meeting in January.

“Our preliminary review of statistics says that there’s really not an overall uptick in crime,” he said.

“What we’re seeing is, if you look at the statistics by wards, we’re seeing increases in some wards, but we’re also seeing decreases in other wards.”

Still, much work remains to be done.

“We’re just sort of beginning to peel the onion back on this,” said Walther, the commission’s vice chairman.

He is also serving as chairman for the law enforcement subcommittee, which includes Johnstown police Chief Craig Foust and Cambria County First Assistant District Attorney Heath Long.

“You put those three people together, we’re confident we will be able to make some recommendations to get a better situation,” Barbin said.

The commission will remain active until summer. It will then issue a report to City Council with recommendations on how to address local crime problems.

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