Thursday, April 26, 2007

Allentown city beefs up police to keep the streets safe

Allentown expects to enter the summer with 35 to 40 more police officers than it had last summer, allowing the department to expand patrols and start special divisions, including an anti-gang unit.

Police Chief Roger MacLean and Mayor Ed Pawlowski swore in the 10 newest officers Wednesday. They are in various stages of training, some at the police academy and some on the street with veteran officers.

When their training is complete, the city will have 198 officers, near its budgeted force of 202, MacLean said.

He expects the city to have the final four recruits within a few weeks to a few months.

Pawlowski and MacLean said the additional officers will allow the city to re-create its motorcycle and bicycle divisions; provide beat officers to walk through neighborhoods; increase patrols downtown; and revive a traffic division to deal with double parkers, speeders and cars blasting stereos, ''things that are just real quality-of-life issues that we haven't been able to address because we didn't have enough manpower,'' Pawlowski said.

As it deploys more officers, the city also is proceeding with plans to install outdoor surveillance cameras, the first of which will be in the downtown business district and surrounding blocks in the Weed and Seed area, which stretches from the Lehigh River to Eighth Street and from Hamilton to Tilghman streets.

The city also is providing grants to help small-business owners install their own surveillance systems.

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