The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

State News

December 16, 2013

Local and state briefs 12/17/2013

Police investigate Berlin couple’s deaths

State police at Somerset on Monday were investigating the deaths of a husband and wife at the couple’s home in Berlin.

Police identified them as Michael David Harkcom, 57, and Karen Louise Harkcom, 59.

They resided in the 1700 block of Shanksville Road.

The deaths were reported just after noon.

The manner of the Harkcoms’ deaths remains under investigation, troopers said.

There is no danger to the public as a result of the incident, police said.

Long-term residents graduating as PEERs

A ceremony for six graduates from the Pennsylvania Empowered Expert Residents program will be held at 2 p.m. today at Cambria Care Center, 429 Manor Drive, Ebensburg.

The graduates are residents of the center.

The PEER program encourages a partnership between residents and facility staff to work together to solve concerns before they become more intense problems.

The program also trains resident advocates to work with facilities, staff and residents to enhance quality of care and quality of life for their peers.

Information: 539-5595.

Drive-thru Nativity rescheduled for Friday

A drive-thru live Nativity at Westmont United Methodist Church, 1428 Menoher Blvd., was postponed because of inclement weather and will be presented from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday.

The Nativity will feature shepherds, wandering wise men and the manger scene.

Visitors should enter from Menoher Boulevard, where they will be greeted by shepherds tending their flocks and searching the night sky. Large signs with Bible passages will tell the story.

In the final stage of the drive-thru, people can hear seasonal music sung by a choir and enjoy holiday cookies baked by church members.

The excursion is free.

Pa. high court tosses parts of Megan’s law

The state Supreme Court threw out portions of the state’s sex-offender registration law on Monday, telling lawmakers they violated the constitution’s requirement that bills that become law must be confined to a single subject.

The justices ruled that a set of changes made to Megan’s law in 2004 was not constitutional, noting that the legislation also included such measures as a two-year statute of limitations on asbestos actions, the jurisdictional parameters of park police and revisions to real estate law.

The court then put its decision on hold for three months to allow the Legislature to find a remedy.

“We will stay our decision, as we have done under similar circumstances, in order to provide a reasonable amount of time for the General Assembly to consider appropriate remedial remedies, and to allow for a smooth transition period,” wrote Justice Debra Todd for the five-justice majority.

“When an act of the Legislature violates the single-subject rule, all of its provisions are equally repugnant to the constitution, and, thus, equally void,” Todd said.

Chief Justice Ronald Castille filed the lone dissent, saying it was a close question but that he would have upheld the law.

“Any law passing through the enactment process is the result of salutary legislative compromise and the single-subject rule is not intended to completely discourage such compromise,” Castille wrote.

As revised in 2004, Megan’s law created a searchable online database of offenders, set new punishments for offenders who did not register, and added luring and institutional sexual assault to the list of offenses that require 10-year registration.

It also set notification rules for out-of-state offenders who move to Pennsylvania, altered duties of the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board and established community notification about sexually violent offenders.

State police issue school safety report

Drawing on security evaluations of more than 300 schools since 2004, Pennsylvania State Police have released a report aimed at helping public and private schools boost security.

The report, available on the state police website, sounded a note of caution about the schools’ vulnerability to attack.

“Many schools are vulnerable to violent intruders entering the building with a weapon and causing harm to the occupants. A secondary threat to the school is the introduction of a portable explosive device into the building to cause mass casualties,” the report said.

The report recommended that schools maintain a security force, install closed-circuit TVs, upgrade locks, hold regular drills and take other safety measures aimed at reducing the threat.

It also provided guidance for lockdown and evacuation procedures.

The state police report used FBI statistics to show that 17 percent of the 154 active shooter incidents in the United States from 2002 to 2012 took place at schools.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on the recommendations in Monday editions.

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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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