He thinks a dozen or more additional full-time officers could put a big dent in Johns-
town’s growing crime problem, but police Chief Craig Foust is not making excuses.
Johnstown police are constantly adjusting patrol routines and bringing new strategies to expand their visibility throughout the city, with an emphasis on problem areas.
“Officers’ presence is something that will always have an impact on crime,” Foust said.
Foust outlined his department’s response to spikes in crime in the wake of three recent city homicides and last month’s Johnstown Commission on Crime and Violence report.
The commission acknowledged that more police is the “optimal solution.” It encouraged the city to develop a strategic enforcement team, analyze crime trends, work with civic and business leaders and reach out to other law enforcement agencies.
Some of those recommendations are part of his standard operating procedure, Foust said.
A daily review of crime reports allows him to assign additional patrols to problem areas, as resources permit. The review confirms some perceptions about the city’s crime problem, but it also brings some surprises, he noted.
“The perception is that things are happening in this town that never happened before,” Foust said. “I am deeply concerned about it.
“We see the problem has moved into some traditionally quiet neighborhoods, while some other areas have slowed down considerably. That is an important piece of information that we can respond to.”
Beefing up patrols
Several high-profile incidents and an overall increase in calls to the Moxham section of the city showed a need for more patrols there. His department was able to get a grant for the extra manhours to assign an extra car to the neighborhood. The patrol is not required to respond to minor calls and incidents, but to specifically be a visible presence on the streets, interacting with residents.
Similar patrols are used in other neighborhoods when they are available, he added.
His officers are working with Neighborhood Watch groups in Moxham and other areas. He encourages neighbors to work together as extra eyes and ears of police.
He likes the idea of more privately funded surveillance cameras in neighborhoods and commercial areas and would like to have access to a database showing all of their locations so his detectives can know which cameras may have recorded an incident.
Foust embraces the commission’s call for a strategic enforcement team, but prefers the moniker “tactical response team.”
The team of four police officers and two intelligence analysts would work a flexible schedule, targeting areas of suspected drug activity or other problems. The idea is to identify and arrest dealers, vandals or thieves plaguing the neighborhood.