The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 24, 2012

City police answer 70% of calls

SUNBURY — Councilman Joe Bartello said he is more interested in the city figuring out why the police department is only answering 70 percent of calls as opposed to worrying about a new contract.

And he has a solution: Hire more officers.

“We need more manpower,” he said. “We could even use another car.”

Bartello said he wants to hire three new officers to help the department answer the nearly 1,000 calls the city receives each month. The department has 13 officers, including Chief Steve Mazzeo, now.

“If we can get them right out of the academy, the pay shouldn’t be that bad,” he said. “The city needs the help.”

Bartello spoke after reading monthly reports from the police department during Monday night’s City Council meeting.

“If they were getting a report card grade in school, it wouldn’t be good,” he said. “I’m not sure how people are standing for this.”

Bartello said it isn’t the department’s fault.

“They just can’t take all the calls,” he said.

His remarks were made two weeks before the city and members of the Sunbury Police Association are to sit down Oct. 8 to negotiate a new contract.

According to the proposal, police officers could receive more vacation time and more sick time, Bartello said.

“That’s not going to help the city,” he said. “I don’t begrudge them anything, but we have to balance it for good service to the residents.”

Bartello blamed Mayor David Persing for failing in his oversight of the police department.

“We should be answering close to 100 percent, and there is no way the police should be only answering 70 percent,” he said. “Dave Persing is in charge of the police, and he has fallen down on this big time.”

Persing said he wouldn’t discuss the new contract until after negotiations are completed, but he did say that hiring three officers would be outrageous.

“We just can’t do that,” he said. “We don’t have the money for that.”

Bartello fired back.

“Something has to get done, and I can’t imagine we can even go forward with a new contract,” he said. “It’s just so far out of the ballpark.”

Calls to city police from January until August totaled 6,804 with 4,845 answered, according to monthly police reports. In April, the officers answered 92 percent of 800 calls.

Out of the total calls handled, 422 people were arrested and 577 cases still are under investigation.

No major violent crimes have been reported in the city since January, and police have said they answer calls in order of priority.


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