Security a Priority for CommunitiesPublished Sep 10, 2013 at 6:26 am (Updated Sep 9, 2013 at 9:19 am)
This year marks the 12th anniversary since the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Although no local threat has been made, there has been heightened international “chatter” among terror groups, and in August, an Al-Queda threat closed United States embassies in the Middle East. Still, local communities are continuing to train to keep up with anything that may arise.
Ken Truver, chief of police in the Borough of Castle Shannon said his department constantly reminds residents that if they see something to say something.
“This is a common mantra we use to echo Homeland Security’s message, but we use it for everyday crime prevention efforts,” Truver said.
Truver added that at the local level, “we are more concerned about keeping our residents safe from the criminal element. We ask our residents to call police immediately if they see suspicious people, vehicles or activity.”
At least one local community has gone as far as having a police officer present at all board of commissioners meetings.
“It was my call,” explained Ryan Eggleston, manager of South Fayette Township. He said having an officer regularly attend meetings is a “smart precaution” in light of what happened in August at a municipal meeting in Ross Township near Philadelphia. In that incident, a gunman opened fire and killed three people. The assailant, who’s property was run down, had code enforcement issues with the township.
Eggleston said given that incident, an officer will be present at township meetings until further notice.
Truver attends most council meetings in Castle Shannon as a resource officer. Mt. Lebanon’s police chief, Coleman McDonough also attends council meetings in that municipality.
In Mt. Lebanon, Lt. Aaron Lauth said the department provides security at activities like sporting events at the school district. “We normally provide security at events where there are lots of people,” he said.
Local communities are also always looking to maintain the most up-to-date training.
“We strive to provide our personnel with the latest technology, equipment and training to keep them and our constituents safe,” Truver said.
In Mt. Lebanon, “Our officers regularly go through training,” Lauth said. He added that the type of training the officers do has a lot to do with trends in what is happening throughout the country and the world.
“Our department is big on training. We want to have the best tools available,” Lauth said.
School-based incidents involving active shooters has been the focus of recent training. Mt. Lebanon and other departments in the South Hills area have been participated in Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training or ALERRT.
“Things are always evolving as far as training goes,” Lauth said, adding the department is “trying to stay ahead of the curve.”
The Mt. Lebanon police are also trying to encourage residents to share important information with the department. Lauth said a lot of times people may feel like something is not important enough to call 911, but it still is important enough to be reported.
According to Lauth, there is a contact form for non-emergencies on the department’s website. At www.pd.mtlebanon.org, citizens can relay information to police. Officers receive that information almost instantaneously. If anyone does have an emergency, Lauth stressed, 911 should still be called.
Eventually, Mt. Lebanon will offer a way for residents to text information via their phones or a smart-phone application to the department.
Thanks to the software program, Tip411, residents will be able to anonymously text information to the police department. Lauth said the data goes through a third-party that erases any phone numbers associated with the text message.
“It’s a completely anonymous way to share information,” Lauth said. To his knowledge, Mt. Lebanon will be the only local department with this new software.