Collaborative effort to combat crime in Hazleton underway
HAZLETON — A helicopter whirred overhead Friday as at least 50 law enforcement officers scoured the streets of Hazleton, saturating neighborhoods with police as they searched for law breakers for hours.
A collaborative effort between Hazleton police, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, federal, state and local law enforcement officers were involved in the endeavor called “Operation Alliance.”
As of an 8: 30 p. m. news conference — seven hours into the maneuvers — police had 60 contacts with citizens, assisted with one fentanyl overdose of a 26- yearold male, made 16 arrests, had five warrant apprehensions and four arrests for possession with intent to deliver, Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said.
Several hundred pills were seized, along with about 10 grams of marijuana, multiple bundles of heroin and fentanyl and an undisclosed amount of methamphetamine, she said from the press conference inside Hazleton Fire Department’s southside station on East Broad Street.
Seven vehicles were impounded, too — one of them was stolen in Philadelphia.
A state police helicopter hovered overhead most of the afternoon and into the night in Hazleton, offering surveillance to police on the ground and keeping an eye on officers’ safety. Hazleton police and those involved in Operation Alliance didn’t announce their saturation patrols until the press conference that night for security reasons, despite the helicopter piquing public interest.
Police from multiple departments stood “shoulder to shoulder,” Police Chief Jerry Speziale said, offering their talents and tools to the operation. Officers hailing from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Pennsylvania State Police and county drug task officers, worked with Hazleton, West Hazleton, Hanover Township, Butler Township and Pittston police and others to take those breaking the law into custody.
They added extra police to a department that doesn’t have enough officers, Salavantis said.
Salavantis said she and the coordinator of the Luzerne County Drug Task force were talking about some of the Hazleton crime headlines they’ve read in local newspapers recently and thought they
could offer help. She reached out to Speziale, asking what they can offer and within about a week, multiple law enforcement departments mobilized, hitting Hazleton’s streets to stop the crime, unannounced.
“We sent these guys out and they hit the ground,” Salavantis said.
“We aren’t going to tolerate the crime that’s going on in Hazleton. We will come together and we will make sure our communities are safe. We are here and we are paying attention,” she said.
Officers planned to keep Operation Alliance in full swing until about 9: 30 p. m. but promised to return again.
“If you are out and you are breaking the law, we are going to reach out and grab you around the neck and bring you to face justice,” Speziale said.
Criminals don’t know municipal boundaries, so eventually Hazleton’s crime problem becomes a problem for other communities and the crossroads of interstates 80 and 81 and other major highways provide the traffic route, Speziale said.
He t hanked all t hose involved in the collaboration and hoped that the message rang clear to criminals that if they’re in Hazleton, they picked the wrong city to set up shop.
Contact the writer: achrist[email protected] standardspeaker. com; 570- 501- 3584