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Will new police chief be up to task?



Published: Fri, August 26, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

Wealthy congressman: U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Butler, Pa., R-3rd, who represents a portion of Mercer County, is one of the richest members of Congress.

Roll Call, a newspaper and website that covers the federal government, ranked the wealthiest congressional members based on their annual financial disclosures. It’s not an entirely accurate listing as the financial reports give officeholders a wide range when listing assets. For example, there is a range of $5 million to $25 million per asset.

Roll Call went with the lesser amounts in each category when compiling its annual list.

Kelly, who owns auto dealerships in western Pennsylvania, is listed at No. 21 with $11.9 million. That also makes him the fourth richest freshman in Congress.

No one else from the Mahoning and Shenango valleys made the top 50.

Incoming Youngstown Police Chief Rod Foley, who starts his new job Thursday, knows the challenges facing him.

The question is: Can he do enough to address and resolve those problems?

Foley already acknowledges there’s a major problem with the police department.

The declining number of those on the force has left the remaining officers overworked and tired, he said.

Overworked officers are “safety issues,” and the long work hours are “taking a toll on officers,” he said.

“They need more rest,” Foley added. “Officers are struggling out there, and we want to bring them some relief.”

That isn’t likely to happen in the foreseeable future, and with the city’s stagnant revenues, this will be an issue for at least several decades.

Between some state money and moving around police department funds, the city expects to add about four new officers to the force sometime this year.

Drop in the bucket

But that’s just a drop in the bucket when you consider 43 officers have left the department since 2007. That’s a 23-percent decline in officers in only four years.

The department currently has 144 officers, Foley said.

Foley said officers are stretched too thin, and “sometimes people wait five or six hours” for officers to respond to minor crimes. That’s because police officers are too busy with the major crimes plaguing the city.

I know of people who’ve waited significantly longer than five or six hours.

There are also people who are essentially hostages in their own homes.

I wrote an article that ran July 31 about Bonnie Jacobs, who lives on East Florida Avenue on the city’s South Side.

She is afraid, and rightfully so, to leave her home and to stay in it. There are two bullet holes in her house, she’s had a gun put to her head and someone tried to run her over with a car in her own driveway.

Foley wants to improve response time for nonemergency calls and have officers “more visible in the community.”

But how can that be done with 23 percent fewer officers on the force compared to 2007?

Statistics show violent crimes — as well as the population — are declining in Youngstown. But burglaries and thefts are on the rise.

Foley’s experience as chief of detectives, staff inspector, vice squad commander, neighborhood-response-unit member, community police member and patrol officer will serve him well.

However, the long-standing problems of crime in the city will remain regardless of who is the police chief.

Foley’s ability to chip away at those problems and make people, such as Jacobs, feel safe in their neighborhood will be the real measuring stick for how successful he’ll be as police chief.


Comments

1johnyoung(241 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

The Vindicator's editors, along with Mr. Skolnick, are taking up their usual role of criticizing City Government operations while speaking out of both sides of their mouths.

Several months ago, Editor Franko called the city's Covelli Center a "success". Now, Mr. Skolnick is critical of the police department's operation in the face of the city's "stagnant revenues".

It does not take much of a scholar or operations analyst to develop the logic train leading to some of the major deficiencies within the police department: lack of resources. Why the lack of resources? One word: MONEY.

How many additional police officers could be hired and put on the street with the $600,000 plus the city is spending each year to subsidize the operation of the Covelli Centre? More than several. With the upcoming principle loan payments due on the Centre, the city's "stagnant revenue" situation as described by Mr. Skolnick will only get worse.

It is utterly amazing to me that the Vindicator can be supportive of continued operations of the Covelli Centre, while acknowledging that the city is struggling financially and cannot meet one of its primary obligations to its protect its citizens. Possible advertising revenue to be gained by the Vindicator is part of the puzzle?

If Mr. Skolnick's predictions are correct, the new police chief unfortunately is being set up to fail. There may be some tactical changes he can make to slightly improve conditions for officers and response time, but without additional dollars, the unfortunate citizen mentioned in Mr. Skolnick's article will continue to be hostages in their own homes and neighborhoods.

Oh well, at least Youngstown will be able to provide occasional entertainment venues for the suburb residents who can afford it, and a steady income for Eric Ryan.

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2pgurney(281 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank you David for this article, which briefly addresses crime on the south side.

Like Ms. Jacobs, my 11 yr old autistic son is afraid to play out in our yard, because he might get shot. This is due to the shooting a few weeks ago on Pasadena, and more recently on Detroit, just a couple of block from our house. My son heard the gunfire, and went hysterical.

I've said it before and I'll say it again here, if something is not done, very soon, I will be sitting on both the Mayor's and the new Chief's doorsteps. There is nothing quite like a mother who needs to protect her child.

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3johnyoung(241 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

@ pgurney:

I sympathize with your situation. I suggest you read my post above, and then call the Mayor and tell him that you believe the city should stop the $600,000 annual subsidy to the Covelli Centre, and use the money to provide more resources for the police department.

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4valleynative19(52 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

In other words YPD street officers are costing the city too much in overtime.
Time to hire new officers at much lower starting wage and lengthy pay tier to get extra police coverage at a lower dollar, lol.

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5Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

The problem is the judges and prosecutors that don't put these "repeat" low life criminals away. Keep them caged up for awhile, problem solved. Case in point: Keilan A. Clinkscale

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6ytownescapee(20 comments)posted 3 years, 1 month ago

I'll comment on Bush but I don't think Obama has had enough time and Republicans working against him so he can't do what he really wants, he has to cooperate. On the other hand Bush should be charged and made to answer to his stupidity when in office. He was the worst president we ever had besides his father. I am a Republican, by the way, but I don't vote that way down the line. It depends on the person running. I think that things should be changed for someone running for office. They should not have to come up with millions of dollars because that eliminates people who might be much better but cannot raise that kind of money.

As far as the YPD, don't make me laugh. They not only get their overtime, don't go to calls that are on the "bad" side of town because they are literally afraid so they go to the suburbs and raid homes, take most of the money, some of the drugs and most live in very nice homes with all the money they extort. I am not guessing, I have proof that this is what they do and it is not just the police, it goes all the way to the top in Youngstown.

The only thing that changed in Youngstown after they "got rid of" the mob is the people extorting money from the ones that can afford it. If you can't you can bet your going to jail for a long time. For the record, they will never get rid of the mob, they are just not showing their faces.

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