By jeanne starmack
new castle, pa.
New Castle’s new police chief wants his department to make more drug arrests and to have more impact on the lives of kids in the city.
“Narcotics was my background,” said Robert Salem, who worked in the department’s narcotics division.
He also said he wants to restart a youth activities program the department had in the 1990s.
Salem, 43, an 18-year veteran of the New Castle force, began work Feb. 10 after the city council approved his appointment to the $73,000-a-year position. He is replacing Tom Sansone, who was chief for eight years before the council voted last month not to reappoint him.
Council voted 3-1 not to reappoint Sansone despite a recommendation from Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo to do so. Members who voted against the reappointment would not say why.
Sansone, who had the option of staying on as a lieutenant, chose to retire, Mastrangelo said this week.
Salem, who was a sergeant, was appointed from among eight candidates of officers who have been in the department at least 12 years, Mastrangelo said. He said he is not allowed to go outside the department to appoint a chief.
He said Stephanie Dean, the city’s business administrator, and Jason Medure, city solicitor, also participated in the interview process.
Salem was a patrol officer for four years beginning in 1995. He was in the narcotics division from late 1998 to 2004, then again in 2011. He was a resource officer at the New Castle Junior-Senior High School beginning in the 2007-08 school year before he returned to the narcotics division.
He has a graduate degree in criminal justice from Youngstown State University.
Salem said last week that he is making the department’s move to a new building a priority for now.
The department is set to move by mid-March to the old Sky Bank building at 303 E. North St. The bank donated the building to the city.
He said he also foresees a lot of drug arrests.
“We’re going to do a lot more street-level stuff,” he said, adding that he also intends to shut down nuisance drug houses.
Salem believes it’s also important for kids and city police officers to get to know one another better. He said the youth program was shut down in the late 1990s after it ran out of money, but money is becoming available again through the county. He also hopes to solicit donations for the program from businesses.
The program featured activities such as lock-ins at the YMCA, where the kids swam and played games, he said. More than 100 kids were participating.
“It’s good for the kids and the officers,” he said.
Salem will oversee 35 officers. The department plans to hire four more this year, he said.