PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney Borough Police Department has its share of adversity this past year, but it also had many positive developments and programs that occurred at the same time.
Punxsutawney Borough Police Chief Tom Fedigan noted that some of the biggest accomplishments of 2010 came when drug arrests took place during the early morining hours of Sept. 10.
• Drug arrests — Fedigan said that 10 local residents from the Punxsy area were arrested on drug charges by officers from his department and with help from members of the Jefferson County Drug Task Force.
“The arrests stemmed from several lengthy and ongoing investigations into drug use, specifically heroin,” Fedigan said.
All 10 of the suspects were arraigned, and bail was set before District Judge Doug Chambers.
• New police vehicles purchased — The department upgraded its patrol vehicles by purchasing a 2010 Ford Explorer and a 2010 Ford Crown Victoria.
Susan Glessner, Punxsy Council president, said that council budgeted $40,000 for the purchase of two new police vehicles. The Explorer was delivered during the summer, and the new Crown Victoria was delivered last week.
• Jefferson County 911 Assistance — The department offered a helping hand to Jefferson County Emergency Services while it was operating out of its backup facility on Fire Tower Road in Winslow Township.
“We were asked for assistance,” Fedigan said, adding that the assistance the department was asked to provide was the NCI and CLEAN system, which is commonly referred to as SCOPE.
Fedigan explained that the SCOPE system is a computer program where police departments can run license registrations, driving records, criminal history checks and BOLOs (Be On the Lookout for).
“If any police department in the county has a traffic stop or requires a criminal history check, they can go through our department to receive it,” he said.
Fedigan added that Punxsy police worked with the police departments in Brockway, Sykesville, Reynoldsville and Brookville.
• The dangers of texting — As more and more people have begun texting on their cell phones, and chatting and updating their status on Facebook and Twitter, there are people who have found ways to abuse these new ways to communicate.
Fedigan reported that more people — including students — were abusing the use of these new devices in 2010.
“It’s very important to be careful with who you send these messages to, and what you are saying in the message,” Fedigan said. “It may be a joke to you, and quite comical, but others might not see it that way.”
• Pedestrian Safety — Motorists are required by law to yield to pedestrians using marked crosswalks or any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, and earlier this year, the police department was able to conduct safety checks throughout town.
“We still monitor the pedestrian traffic every day as part of our normal routine patrols,” Fedigan said, adding that the department could still receive additional funding to pay for additional patrols.
• Scam alert — Fedigan warned area residents to beware of people who may approach them and ask for money.
He said that police investigated several complaints from citizens about possible scams in 2010.
“If someone comes up to you and asks you for money and you give it to them, I don’t see a crime there,” Fedigan said.
Fedigan said he wants to warn the public to be cautious, and make people aware that such scams can be committed in Punxsy.
• Back to school safety — Police provided additional patrols for the first couple of days of school to show more law enforcement visibility.
Fedigan said that it’s important for motorists to remember that the colors of the flashing lights on a school bus have different meanings.
“The amber lights are a warning that the red lights are about to be activated and the bus is about to stop,” Fedigan said, adding that approaching and failing to stop at a flashing signal on a school bus is a $250 fine plus court costs.
• Seat belt checks — A seat belt safety check was held Oct. 30 at Punxsutawney Area High School by police as students and staff departed school for the weekend.
Shawn Houck, safety officer for PennDOT District 10, assisted with planning the safety check
Houck said that it was very important to remind young drivers to always buckle up.
“Seat belts are a tool in their vehicle that could save their life one day if they’re involved in a crash,” Houck said. “The seat belt safety check was a wonderful joint effort between Punxsutawney Borough Police and Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police to get these kids to buckle up every time that they drive.”
• AAA award — Punxsutawney Borough Police was chosen again this year for the American Automobile Association (AAA) gold award.
Fedigan said the award was presented by the AAA Traffic Safety Awards program.
“This is our third consecutive year for being recognized,” Fedigan said, adding that it is for implementing programs and projects that demonstrate the department’s endeavor to improve local traffic safety issues.
“The ‘Buckle Up’ campaigns and the aggressive driving programs — there’s a variety of different campaigns that we’re willing to participate in, and our efforts are paying off,” Fedigan said. “To be honored by AAA, which is the leading organization as far as promoting public safety, we’re proud of these honors that we’ve received.”
All things considered, Fedigan also noted that 2010 has been a tough year for his department.
“The Punxsutawney Police Department has overcome a lot of adversity this past year,” Fedigan said. “The officers and staff will continue to work hard to provide prompt and courteous response to the community we serve.”