A Day Full of Meetings

It’s been about two weeks since I last posted to the blog. Today however I was able to attend two meetings whose topics revolved around violence in the City of Reading and what we can do as concerned citizens to help. The first meeting was held at City Hall in the council chambers. The meeting which was hosted by Council President Francis Acosta

centered on the root causes of crime in our city. The Police Chief, William Heim, was also in attendance and gave some facts that the police department has collected as to the reasons crimes happen in the city. Below I will detail some of the key points of his presentation. And according to this recent Reading Eagle Article , Chief Heim gave a detailed list of the City’s plight with crime:

 The 15 murders last year were the highest since 2005, when there were 23. The low was six in 2007, but the city averaged 10 to 12 murders a year from 2008 through 2011.

• The 44 rapes last year were double the 21 to 22 of the previous three years. The high was 56 in 2003.

Picture Courtesy: Ryan McFadden

Police Chief William Heim addressing City Council

• Robberies held even with 382 reported in 2012. The high was 510 in 2002.

• Aggravated assault cases rose 11 percent to 387 last year. The high was 665 in 2004.

In other major crime categories, burglaries rose 5 percent over the year to 1,448, the highest rate since the 1,512 burglaries in 2005.

Thefts rose 8 percent to 1,629; vehicle thefts rose 27 percent to 538; but arsons dropped almost by half to 17.

Still, thefts and vehicle thefts were well below their recent highs. Vehicle thefts hit 1,224 in 2006.

Since Act 47: The City’s Police force has been decreased by 20% which translates to about 40 police officers who have left the force since 2009. Currently, the Reading Police force consists of 163 officers out of a total of 168. When the force was at full strength pre- act 47 the Homicide rate in the city had decreased by 40%. Mr. Heim then went into detail about the 4 major facets of crime here in the City of Reading, which are:

Drugs:

Turf wars.(Rare)
Competition of territory.(infrequent)
Owning money to drug dealer. (frequent)
Ripping off drug dealers. (frequent)
Robberies committed to get money to buy drugs. (Happens all the time)

Robberies:

Street Robberies. (High percentage of all crimes)
Wolf-Pack robberies. (two or more people)
Delivery person robberies.(On the rise)
Drug-related robberies.

Disputes:

Difficult to prevent

Happens from a perceived disrespect. (often over Money, Women, and Men)
Easy access to weapons.
Minor arguments escalating into major violence.

Domestic:

Arguments usually involve intoxicated persons.
Highly emotional; rage and jealously play a key role.
Power and control.

Edna Garcia founder of RIZE was the main orgainzer for Tuesday's meeting in the Council Chambers

Edna Garcia founder of RIZE was the main orgainzer for Tuesday’s meeting in the Council Chambers

The conversations then went on to include why the city has not hired anymore police officers. Of course, Chief Heim then went on to say that the civil tests are based off of 9th grade reading comprehension. Well, you all know what I did folks! I spoke up and said what I have been saying on this blog for such a long time. The attainment of our socio-economical status is directly tied to our educational attainment. 45% of our elementary schools produce kids that cannot read at grade-level. Less than 50 percent of 11th graders are barely able to read at grade-level. How can we expect to hire more police, if they can barely read the test in the first place?

 

I think its obvious to point out that yes the City of Reading does need more police officers. However, we also need our current police department to work smarter with the force that they already have. It’s also safe to say that this problem of crime and/or violence is not unique to Reading. Because of this, we shouldn’t feel the need to have to reinvent the wheel in order to combat violence and foster a safe community. There’re many urban communities within the U.S. that have taken this issue head-on. Why not use what these citities have been using and customize to fit our city? Food for thought, no?

The Second meeting of the day was held at AlbrightCollege. The meeting which was hosted by the Reading Youth Violence Prevention Project (RYVP)and was Mc’d by Laura Welliver (Grants and Special Projects coordinator, St. JosephMedicalCenter.) I’ll preface by saying that this is the first that I’ve heard of this initiative. I’m very glad I went today. The effort and blueprint, which I will post at a later time, will focus on the Northeast sector of the city, where the vast majority of youth converge by the secondary school level. The three focal points to this initiative will be:

Family: Connect Youth to Caring Adults
Develop creative and innovative opportunities for establishing or strengthening positive youth-adult attachments, including but not limited to: existing mentoring programs and new mentoring models; school-based, after-school and extracurricular programs; arts and cultural programs; faith-based and service groups settings, etc.

School: School Climate
Foster safe and positive school climates for all students and staff by ensuring that school settings feature characteristics that promote safety, academic achievement and positive youth development.

Community: Community Partnerships

Encourage strong commitment and collaboration among a broad spectrum of community partners to promote youth development and address violence, including local government, businesses, schools, faith groups, community-based organizations, the media, grassroots groups, and community residents (adults and youth).

Since this was the first meeting that I was able to attend (and also the first time that this initiative has been brought to my attention), I’m a little short on the facts. That being said however, I feel very confident in this project and was very enthusiastic about the people who were there and who showed their support. In the future I will have a more in-depth blog post regarding this effort so please be on the lookout for that!

 

I’ll leave you all with a wonderful quote that I have read often:

“Even if you can’t do great things, you can do small things in a great way.” – Napoleon Hill

Together we can all make a difference and with our coordinated and concerted effort we can do small things in a great way!

If you would like to learn more about this effort and how you can be apart of this initiative please contact Laurawelliver@catholichealth.net

 

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