Saturday, July 12, 2014

OUR OPINION: IS THIS A GOOD IDEA? Put task force on crime watch

November 29. 2013 11:59PM
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Would it be a good idea to …

… expand on the newly formed Sherman Hills task force focusing on problems related to the troubled Wilkes-Barre apartment complex, and permanently put in place a group to look at Luzerne County’s broader crime and safety issues?

By convening regularly and consulting with police, the group might be able to identify emerging problems — such as new gang activity, mobile meth labs, criminal hot spots, “bath salts” and teen suicide — before they reach crisis levels here.

Participants, including elected officials and key community leaders, could call upon experts from the Wyoming Valley and well beyond. As needed, the task force would notify the public of potential troubles, devising and promoting strategies for dealing with issues that are not confined by municipal boundaries.

We didn’t run this idea past Northeastern Pennsylvania’s powers that be. We want to know what you think.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, and others announced earlier this week they had established a task force in response to shootings and illicit activity at Sherman Hills, acknowledging the complex “is not an island.” “It is part of our community,” said Cartwright. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the problems facing the residents who call this place home. This is not temporary housing in Sherman Hills; this is where families live and where children are growing up.”

Since crime perpetually tops many area residents’ lists of concerns, and impacts quality of life throughout the region, shouldn’t a task force take the lead on the matter, ensuring it gets the attention it requires? Surely, local law enforcement groups exchange information regularly. And individual city and borough governments sometimes address crime sprees at their meetings.

But the factors contributing to violent crime and drug-related offenses don’t begin, or end, at the fence of any single housing complex. Instead, they involve economics, education, opportunity, parenting, policing and plenty of conditions that cross over to the broader society. So shouldn’t our response be community-wide?

Tell us if you think a permanent task force is a worthwhile proposal or a pitiful one. Would its activities be redundant with efforts under way in Luzerne County? Do you consider it laughable to even suggest that a task force can yield tangible results?

Give us your feedback by sending a letter the editor or posting comments to this editorial at or

Likewise, share your own ideas for improving the community and making area residents’ lives better. Maybe we’ll spotlight your suggestion in a future editorial and ask readers, “Would it be a good idea to …”

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