Violence in Easton's west ward dominates city council meeting

Mayor says longer prison sentences part of the solution

EASTON, Pa. - Crime may be on the decline 23 percent citywide in Easton, but you'd never know it from the stories west ward residents told city council Wednesday night.

In the wake of a gun battle between two cars that wounded a woman in her home earlier this week, about 20 neighbors took turns venting their fears and frustrations over the shots that were fired in the middle of the afternoon Monday, in a section of the city that's been trying for years to put the crime and violence that had racked it for years in the past.

Council listened to a long list of suggestions, ranging from getting police out of patrol cars and out on walking the beat, to leaving front porch lights on at night, to revitalizing neighborhood crime watch programs and possibly requiring West Ward residents to get parking permits.

Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said putting cops on every corner, even if it were possible, would not solve the problem.

He repeatedly said whoever was behind the gunplay in the 1200 block of Washington Street did not live in the area.

"It's not people in your neighborhood," Panto said, referring to the shooters as "thugs," whom he predicted will be found to have long arrest records after they are nabbed.

"These types are in and out of jail, eight, nine, 10 times," Panto said. "It's a way of life for some of them."

The violence that surfaced in the West Ward, Panto suggested, was an example of people possibly from East Orange or Newark, New Jersey, who are "coming here to do their dirty deeds and going back home," probably on Interstate 78, which he described as a blessing and curse for the region because anyone the police may be looking for can quickly slip out of Easton and be back in New Jersey, thanks to the interstate.

Panto said judges must "put these people away," and not clog the prisons with what he referred to as petty crime and minor drug offenses, like selling marijuana.

"It's really not the crime," he said. "It's the violence."

Panto said he wants to discuss his views with John Morganelli, the district attorney of Northampton County, "to see if we can get these people off the street for longer periods of time."

Carrie Jones, who lives in the area of the shooting, said she is considering selling the house she called home for 12 years because the recent violence is "really hitting home," to the point where her children no longer play on the front porch.

"I don't even want to sleep in the house," Jones said.

She recalled a morning about two weeks ago when she went to pick up the newspaper from the porch, only to find it and the sidewalk covered in blood.

Police later told her someone had been assaulted and sat on her porch and bled.

"I'm tired of it," Jones said. "I hate where I live."

She said she saw no hope.

"I don't know how you stop these people," she said.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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