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Area residents discuss ways to curb violence

Standard-Speaker - 5/13/2023

May 12—Area residents took in a May 3 town hall meeting at Hazleton's southside fire station, but also posed questions and offered suggestions after an April rash of violence in the area.

A few people asked for more police patrols, some called for more interaction between police and children but each of them wanted an end to the violence they see in their hometown.

"Together we can make it," a man in the crowd said, calling for unity.

Police captain Anthony White said officers will conduct foot patrols in the future because they prove to be a helpful tool for peace.

Nicarol Soto, a candidate for city council, asked if police know the cause for the violence.

Police Chief Brian Schoonmaker said police have some insight but can't release that information yet because it's an ongoing investigation. Soto believes a lot of the trouble is rooted in drugs and questioned if more officers dedicated to working those cases would help weed out more dealers since drug investigations take time.

She also asked for a drug prevention program to educate school children on the "truth" about gangs and drugs because gangs are misleading youth.

Trooper Anthony Petroski of Troop N, Hazleton said police want to release information to the public as soon as possible but they have to be cautious when investigations are ongoing. They don't want a potential suspect to flee or have their work otherwise jeopardized.

Petroski said police also need the community and want to let them know that the information they forward is valuable.

Schoonmaker said police want to reach the kids before gangs do. Officers are reinvigorated after talking to the community, according to the chief, especially when they interact with children.

As for drugs, Schoonmaker said the city narcotics unit works cases in Hazleton as does the DEA, Attorney General's Office, Pennsylvania State Police and Homeland Security.

Jorhan Pujols asked for more police in schools to protect the children, while his brother, Anthony Pujols, called for more people to be held accountable for breaking the law.

Ivelisse Eufracio-Childs, a candidate for Hazleton Area School Board, said the public needs more access to police. Schoonmaker offered ways officers are accessible such as through 911 and the tipline at 570-450-2080. But, he also said a computer system will be available to the public at city hall soon and will be accessible online for people to file minor reports about things such as vandalism or lost property.

Contact the writer: achristman@standardspeaker.com; 570-501-3584

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