CLARKS SUMMIT — Mayor Patty Lawler always believed the Clarks Summit Police Department was a top-notch group.
Her feelings were confirmed when the borough was ranked as the 10th safest city in the state out of 963 places from which data was collected, according to a 2016 report from SafeWise.
SafeWise reviewed the most recent FBI Crime Report statistics from 2014 and eliminated cities with fewer than 5,000 residents and those that failed to submit a complete crime report to the FBI. They narrowed the list based on the number of reported violent and property crimes per each 1,000 people in each city.
Per the report, there were 0.15 violent crimes, which include aggravated assault, murder, rape and robbery and 3.05 property crimes, which include burglary, arson, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft reported per 1,000 residents in Clarks Summit Borough.
“We have a strong force,” Lawler said. “We have four full-time officers and three of them are seasoned. They’ve made a career out of being police officers and are very qualified to take charge of any situation, whether it be a theft, domestic dispute, traffic violation, or all of the above.
“The last full-time officer we hired, Kevin Yetkowskas, worked for the borough as a part-time officer for several years, and Chief (Chris) Yarns and the senior officers were his mentors. He went out on calls with them and learned on the job, which is a beautiful thing. If you come in with a sense of the borough’s needs and issues, it makes life a lot easier.”
The borough also has eight part-time officers: Brian Newhart, Matt Sims, Wanda Crespo, Michael Frezzolini, Patrick Gibbons, Kenneth James, Joe Laguzzi and Angelo Rudolfi.
“Many of them are serving with a senior officer when they come in, so they are well-equipped,” Lawler said. “I know we’re in good hands in Clarks Summit Borough.”
Yarns feels the department’s ability and willingness to interact with residents of the borough is one of its biggest assets.
“I believe the officers who work here have integrated themselves into the community well,” he said. “All the full-time officers and most of the part-time officers know numerous people in the community. They can drive down a street and will know somebody who lives on it.”
Lawler also credits the vigilance of the residents for helping to limit crime in the borough.
Several members of the police force have specialized training in a number of different issues.
Orzalek is certified in Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, and Shedlock and Yetkowskas are certified in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). Shedlock also completed a firearms qualification course.
“It’s a great certification,” Yarns said of the CIT training. “The guys walk out with a totally new perspective about how they feel about treating people with mental conditions.”
Orzalek is one of three officers certified in Commercial Vehicle Enforcement in Lackawanna County.
Williams has been instrumental in bringing a prescription drug take-back program to the borough and administered Naloxone, along with Yarns, to treat an overdose victim.
“All of them, I feel, have the equipment, training and professionalism to serve the borough and our residents at full capacity,” Lawler said of the officers.
In terms of changes to further improve the police force, Yarns mentioned the possibility of having increased interaction with young people in the community.
“I think we’re lacking in that area,” he said. “I’d like to find ways to keep in touch with the juveniles. We have a couple officers who will get out of their car and chat with the kids for a while. I think it’s a healthy thing because I hear about it from all the parents.”
The police department recently added a bike patrol after they received a donation from Sickler’s Bike & Sport Shop.
“It’s more personal when you can drive up the sidewalks and talk to people who are outside,” Yarns said. “You can certainly see more and hear more when you’re going slower.
“You can get inside and ride inside the parks. The other nice thing about a bicycle is when there is criminal activity, especially in the evening hours, the officer can sneak up on them pretty fast because they don’t hear a car coming.”
Yetkowskas and Gibbons are the two officers equipped for bike patrols.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.