Col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort to com­bat crime in Ha­zle­ton un­der­way

The Republican Herald - - LOCAL - By AMANDA CHRIST­MAN

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

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