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Lehigh Valley

Residents concerned over Easton crime creeping into suburbs

Drug raids

EASTON, Pa. - Is Easton's crime problem creeping into the suburbs? After a drug raid this week, some residents say they're moving farther away to escape the crime.

On the surface, tiny Wilson borough is the picture of small-town charm. But this is not: a drug raid conducted by Easton Police on Washington Street netted three arrests. Police believe the house is tied to the deadly Crips gang out of Newark, N.J.

Frank Freidl moved his family out of Wilson after a shooting.

"We just packed it up and left," he said.

There have been other incidents. Last year, police busted a meth house on North 15th Street. Then hours later, someone shot a man next to a CVS store. Police tied both crimes to drug trafficking in Easton.

"The drugs are just spreading all across Palmer Township, Wilson borough, Easton, West Ward, everywhere," said Patricia Alford, head of the anti-violence group "Guns Down."

"I'm not surprised," added Thanh Nghiem of nearby Forks Township. "There has been some activity, over the past 10 years. I mean, at various times."

If you walk around Wilson, you'll notice a lot of rental properties. Some people say that's the real problem here -- absentee landlords.

"It's the landlords," said Freidl. "All the old folks that kept Wilson real nice when I was a kid -- they all passed on."

Alford, whose brother was a well-known community activist in Easton before being killed in Florida, wants more community policing.

"More people need to just be on foot and just go around and make themselves present," she said.

Early Friday morning, Easton Police conducted two simultaneous raids -- one in Wilson and the other in Easton's West Ward. Police are investigating whether the two homes are connected.

Search warrants were served around 6 a.m. in the 1400 block of Elm Street in Easton and the 1500 block of Washington Street in Wilson by the Easton Police Special Response Unit and the state police Special Emergency Response Team.

One of the four taken into custody is a suspected member of the Crips street gang.
Thirty-year-old Stephenson Mc Leod was arrested at the Elm Street address and is facing charges of possession of drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia and .25 caliber ammunition were seized from that residence.

Police report two suspects hid inside the building on Washington Street, but eventually were arrested.

They were identified as 27-year-old Glenn Taromina and 31-year-old Patrick Gaber. Both are facing charges of possessing drug paraphernalia.

Twenty-four-year-old Ervin B. Jackson also was arrested at the Washington Street apartment and is facing charges of possession with intent to deliver cocaine.

About $700 worth of crack cocaine, cell phones and $263 were seized from the residence.

Police said that apartment is suspected to be associated with "Crips" gang members from the Newark, N.J., area.

As detectives started to search the apartment, Taromina and Gaber hid in the basement.

They refused to surrender despite repeated commands to do so by police.

Easton police treated the incident as barricaded subjects.

When taken into custody by the Easton police K-9 Unit, Gaber suffered minor injuries. He was treated and released.

Taromina was arrested without incident.

No officers were injured during the raids.

The investigation is continuing into narcotics trafficking from both residences.

Easton police are investigating if any of occupants of the Elm Street residence have any information about an April 12 "shots fired" incident in the 600 block of Ferry Street. Two handguns were located on the scene during that incident.

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