HAZLETON — City Council addressed crime within Hazleton at its meeting on Thursday night.
Mark Rabo addressed council, suggesting the crime rate and constraints of the city’s budget warranted the presence of an armed crime watch group to patrol city streets. Rabo, a former Marine and area businessman, said he feels the arming of area residents will act as a deterrent to crime and that guns would be used “only as a last resort.
“We believe we have a right to bear arms for this very purpose,” said Rabo, citing recent incidents of violence.
Dominic Tolerico, in agreement with Rabo, told council, “Residents don’t need to seek permission to bear arms; this is their right according to the Constitution.”
Resident Sylvia Thomas, who belongs to an existing crime watch, said she disagrees with arming area residents to combat crime. “The whole idea of having people of Hazleton feel they need to carry guns makes me sad,” she said.
Council President Jim Perry encouraged residents to confer with police Chief Frank DeAndrea. “He is our head law enforcement officer with a great deal of experience, and we need his input into this issue,” Perry said.
DeAndrea and other officials will be available at an upcoming town hall meeting to address crime watch issues, said councilwoman Jean Mope. “We want crime watch members to be doing things according to the law and in an appropriate way,” Mope said.
Councilman Jack Mundie commended residents for the courage to offer ideas regarding making the city safer.
In another matter, council unanimously voted to table a resolution authorizing transfer of liquor license R-5450 to Hazleton Heights Entertainment LLC. Attorney Anthony Lucadamo, representing the business, said its plan for the property at 601 S. Poplar St. would include a family restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Solicitor Christopher Slusser indicated the city wanted to do more research about possible restrictions on the license, including hours of sale. It was also brought to Slusser’s attention the property was zoned as industrial and not commercial, thus making its projected use for a restaurant out of compliance with zoning code.
“Although the property has in the past been used commercially, it still remains zoned as industrial,” said resident Grace Cuozzo. “And it’s still wrong.”
In another matter, Slusser said he was still working on the storm fee ordinance and would have a draft prepared for review within the next week.
In closing the meeting, Perry thanked those who attended for discussing matters in a cooperative and appropriate manner. “We are all stakeholders in this city,” he said, “and the city needs the efforts of all of us.”
The next meeting of City Council is set for 5:30 p.m. March 20.