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Officials tout success of street crimes unit in Reading

Police report 24 percent reduction in crime over last 10 months

Officials: Unit leads to 24% violent crime drop in Reading

READING, Pa. - The deployment of a street crimes unit in Reading has proven successful, according to state and local law enforcement officials.

Violent crime in the city has dropped 24 percent as a result of the initiative and other measures implemented over the past 10 months, officials announced during a news conference at City Hall on Tuesday.

"Having state parole officers and Reading police officers working side by side has been an effective way to share information and make our community safer," said Chief Bill Heim, Reading Police Department. "The SCU has been an important factor in the decline in violent crime that the city is currently experiencing."

The Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole has partnered parole agents with police officers in Reading to target high-risk offenders with a history of drugs, guns and violence in high crime areas of the city, officials said.

"In January 2013 at the Crime Summit, Gov. Tom Corbett committed the assistance of state agencies to help address the increasing violence that the city was experiencing," said Michael C. Potteiger, chairman, Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. "Through this partnership, we have been working to improve public safety by removing violent offenders from the streets and providing treatment and programming when needed."

"This is one of the most successful initiatives that began with the Crime Summit," said Mayor Vaughn Spencer, D-Reading. "The state Board of Probation and Parole offered to bring the Street Crimes Unit to Reading and the police and district attorney were enthusiastic about it. It's been good for both agencies and the community."

The parole agents, officials said, can provide valuable information to law enforcement about individuals on parole in their community, notification of wanted parolees and conditions of parole such as curfews.

"We have certainly been able to get violent offenders off the street before they can commit another crime, but we are also improving law enforcement relationships in the community," said Potteiger. "Parolees and families are cooperative once they understand we are there to help, not just arrest someone."

The street crimes unit program has also been implemented in Harrisburg. The board has said it plans to expand the program to other cities across the state.

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