Bridesburg private security: yay or nay?

Brides­burg res­id­ents have mixed opin­ions on hir­ing private se­cur­ity guards for the neigh­bor­hood, while in re­sponse to com­plaints, the po­lice de­part­ment will as­sign more dis­trict of­ficers to patrol the area.

Mem­bers of the Pennsylvania Private Po­lice, who ad­vert­ised their se­cur­ity patrol ser­vices to Brides­burg res­id­ents last week. From left, Chief Harry Mear­ing, Capt. Chris­toph­er Rodrig­uez, and Sgt. Robert Miller. SAM NE­W­HOUSE / STAR PHOTO

In re­cent weeks, fli­ers cir­cu­lated around Brides­burg that said neigh­bors were in­vited to a meet­ing to dis­cuss “a pos­sible solu­tion” to crime in the neigh­bor­hood.

More than 100 neigh­bors came to the meet­ing on Tues­day, Sept. 17, all of whom seemed to agree that graf­fiti, drug sales, burg­lar­ies, car thefts, car break-ins, and theft of met­al and oth­er out­doors house­hold goods by “scrap­pers” are an in­creas­ing prob­lem in their neigh­bor­hood.

But many of them were sur­prised when they were handed bro­chures for the Pennsylvania Private Po­lice, LLC, a private se­cur­ity com­pany that for a monthly fee could bring a patrol car and armed guards to the neigh­bor­hood.

Neigh­bor Stan­ley Ruth said that he would not have come to the meet­ing at all if he knew se­cur­ity guards would be ad­vert­ising their ser­vices. 

ldquo;It’s a waste of time and money,” Ruth said. “They can only make a cit­izen’s ar­rest. You can do that your­self.”

The Pennsylvania Private Po­lice ser­vice costs $20 per home per month, and their con­tract re­quires at least 200 homes in the neigh­bor­hood to sign up.

But Kathy Rolle, the neigh­bor who in­vited the Pennsylvania Private Po­lice to present to the com­munity and or­gan­ized the meet­ing, be­lieves that they could help de­ter crime just by be­ing in the neigh­bor­hood.

“What really im­pressed me is the idea of that cop car they have go­ing around,” Rolle said. “I would feel much safer with that vehicle go­ing around our neigh­bor­hood.”

A few days after the meet­ing, Capt. John Mc­Clo­s­key of the 15th Po­lice Dis­trict, which in­cludes Brides­burg, as­signed a patrol car and two bi­cycle of­ficers to Brides­burg, partly in re­sponse to com­plaints voiced at the meet­ing. He also re­arranged oth­er as­sign­ments to have more of­ficers on patrol in gen­er­al.

“I can see the neigh­bors’ con­cerns that as drug us­age starts and prop­erty crime starts, it’s go­ing to get worse. I think you’ve got to nip it in the bud with a vis­ible po­lice pres­ence,” Mc­Clo­s­key said.

“I don’t think res­id­ents should have to pay for ex­tra se­cur­ity. That’s the po­lice de­part­ment’s job,” he ad­ded.

But Rolle said she is skep­tic­al that the po­lice will be able to stop the crime prob­lems in Brides­burg.

“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been told that we’re get­ting something – and as soon as they get a call from Frank­ford, they’re out of here,” she said.

About 30 neigh­bors signed up for Pennsylvania Private Po­lice’s ser­vices after the meet­ing, Rolle said.

“I think it will be a good de­terrent. When people see them, they’ll start think­ing twice about do­ing something,” said neigh­bor Jill El­li­ott after the meet­ing. 

The Private Po­lice ser­vice in­cludes one patrol car with two armed se­cur­ity guards patrolling the des­ig­nated area from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. sev­en days a week. Homes that pay the fee and are signed up will get ex­tra at­ten­tion, in­clud­ing guards shin­ing flash­lights at their homes, but the en­tire neigh­bor­hood would fall un­der the guards’ ser­vice area.

ldquo;I would rather pay $240 a year to have these guys here, than have to pay $175 when a win­dow in the front of my house gets smashed,” said neigh­bor Bill Lorch.

Chief Harry Mear­ing, 43, own­er and founder of the Pennsylvania Private Po­lice, said he has more than 20 years ex­per­i­ence as a se­cur­ity guard.

“I’m not selling any­thing,” Mear­ing said. “It’s what you need, to go to this level, to have vis­ible patrols to de­ter crime in the area.”

Rolle heard about Mear­ing through word-of-mouth and re­searched his pre­vi­ous work in North­wood be­fore in­vit­ing him to this meet­ing. 

State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.), who at­ten­ded the meet­ing, told people in at­tend­ance that in his home neigh­bor­hood of North­wood, crime did seem to de­crease while Mear­ing was patrolling the neigh­bor­hood.

Capt. Mc­Clo­s­key ac­know­ledged that res­id­ents of Brides­burg have not got­ten a sat­is­fact­ory re­sponse to their com­plaints about crime in the past, but he pledged to do more.

“You call for a cop, you’ve got to wait four [or] five hours – that’s not right … You pay your taxes, you keep up your homes, you de­serve bet­ter,” Mc­Clo­s­key said. “But I think it’s too much to ask house­holds to put up $240 a year for pro­tec­tion the po­lice and the city should be do­ing.”

The Pennsylvania Private Po­lice will hold a second in­form­a­tion­al meet­ing for the res­id­ents of Brides­burg at the First Pres­by­teri­an Church of Brides­burg, 2770 Pratt St., at 7 p.m., on Oct. 2. 

For more in­form­a­tion about the Pennsylvania Private Po­lice or to sign up, vis­it www.pen­npvt­po­ ••

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