The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

June 13, 2013

Crime panel hears about drug issues


JOHNSTOWN — Drug abuse can create a negative ripple effect in a community.

It can lead to theft, violence, blight, health issues and workforce depletion.

On Thursday, Johnstown’s Drug and Crime Commission heard about some of those concerns in testimony provided by Cambria County Sheriff Bob Kolar and Johnstown Area Regional Industries President Linda Thomson during a meeting at the city’s Public Safety Building.

Kolar discussed the direct link between drugs and crime.

“You might think that drugs is just buying, selling, getting high. No,” he said. “What do they do to get money? Anything they can think of. If it means take a car, if it means rob a bank, if it means grab somebody’s purse, if it means taking somebody’s wallet, if it means shoplifting in a store or stealing, they’ll do it. They’ll do anything to get the drugs.”

Thomson did not attend the meeting in person.

In her written statement, read by the commission’s chairman, state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, she explained how businesses are hurt when people cannot enter the workforce because of an inability to pass drug tests.

“The Greater Johnstown region, like other regions throughout Pennsylvania, requires a committed and skilled workforce to carry us into the future,” Thomson said. “Employers are more concerned with having a workforce to keep their companies competitive than any other operational component of their business. JARI will continue to work with our partners to assure local company leadership that our region can meet the challenge, but the drug culture that permeates our region is certainly impeding our progress.”

Kolar and Thomson provided their input during the final meeting of the ad hoc commission before it finalizes a report, laying out the causes of and possible solutions to crime problems in Johns-town. The board is tentatively scheduled to give its findings to City Council on July 1 or July 2.

The commission has examined how numerous factors, including education, housing, law enforcement and rehabilitation, affect crime.

“We’ve got to deal with this issue,” Barbin said, “and that requires us to focus resources and education and prevention and intervention, rehabilitation. We’ve got to do all those things.”

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