City, county and state officials will meet on Friday, January 18th at the Crowne Plaza Reading, Wyomissing in order to try and overcome the challenges which are not unique to Berks County or the city of Reading. Some of those challenges include a rise in crime combined with a smaller police force due to tough economic times.
“I look forward to proposing a number of solutions that I think will be effective in combating crime,” said District Attorney John T. Adams in a local media outlet.
D.A. Adams and the 28 other invited officials, including Governor Corbett, hope the closed door sessions dubbed the Berks County and Greater Reading Crime Summit will result in more great crime fighting initiatives as other summits did in the past.
There was Weed and Seed, the Route 222 Corridor Anti Gang Initiative, COBRA or Constant Operation by Repeated Arrests and VIPER, or the Violent and Pattern Crime Reduction unit.
All of these other initiatives were created behind closed doors in the Reading City Hall by the police and other officials. All of them were successful but they all required outside funding. These days funding is scarce because of budget cuts and the lack of federal funding. Also with Reading's financial woes over the last few years the police force has been cut from 215 in 2007 to 145 today which means less manpower available to enforce any new initiatives.
"Money is an issue," said Marcelino Colon, community development director at the United Way of Berks County, in the local paper.
Still, officials are hopeful, even without funding, that some kind of battle plan against Reading's criminal element can come to fruition.
A detailed plan to reduce crime is needed because the perception of Reading as a city plagued by crime has become a serious problem. At the present time the murder rate in Reading is down from a high of 25 murders in 2000 but there has been a recent upturn in violent crime as well as murder in the city. This has created a public relations nightmare for local businesses as well as the visitors bureau whose mission it is to bring in visitors to the many attractions and venues in the city.
Another issue the summit hopes to deal with is the spill over of crime from the city into the suburbs which has created a burden for suburban law enforcement agencies.
The crime summit is clearly one step in the right direction but the key to the whole event will be the ability to implement any new initiatives throughout the city and suburbs.