Scavello calls for tough on crime approach to rising crime rates
As Commonwealth communities grapple with reports of rising crime and recruitment challenges among law enforcement, GOP candidates for the 2022 races are targeting crime as a major problem.
The Poconos’ own Mario Scavello (R-40), current chairman of the Senate Committee on Majority Politics and not running for re-election, is attending public hearings across the state to connect with officials in the law enforcement on what they think is causing the crime and the tools they need to fight it. Hearings are open to the public and streamed online, although those who testify before the committee do so by invitation only.
“We learned at our first meeting that Pennsylvania has strong crime-fighting laws,” Scavello said. “However, communities that take soft approaches to crime or ignore the rule of law essentially disassemble our criminal justice system.”
The committee regularly points to FBI data that ranks the year-over-year increase in violent crime rates in Pennsylvania as the highest in the nation, up 27.1% from 2019 to 2020. The trend reflects nationwide homicide spikes during the COVID-19 pandemic in Republic- and Democratic-run cities.
“Do we need more laws? asked Scavello. “Or should we enforce the laws we have? the cities apply the laws in place. Scavello, described police dissatisfaction in areas where he considers bail policies to be too lenient.
“As soon as they get them in, they will be released,” he said. “These are the big cities where it happens. Philadelphia, all the time.
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Philadelphia, which is grappling with a record number of homicides, is a frequent target for those who blame the rise in violent crime on liberal policies and prosecutors. What’s happening there is “revealing,” Scavello said, and is why the next hearing will be held “fairly close to Philadelphia.”
“We want to hear from people in this area and see what’s going on,” he said.
Testimony from police chiefs and prosecutors made up the bulk of the first two hearings in Cambria and Lancaster counties. Cambria County District Attorney Gregory Neugebauer told the committee that it has become more difficult for communities to attract and retain police officers. Lancaster police chiefs echoed that concern, blaming distrust of law enforcement for national media coverage of shootings involving officers.
Poconos law enforcement has described similar problems recruiting and retaining officers, but Scavello said a hearing is unlikely to take place in Monroe County because he is confident in the ability of the District Attorney David Christine Jr., who is a Republican. .
“The justice system does a really good job, and I think DA does too,” Scavello said. “So if you’re tough on crime, then guess what, you know. From what I’m hearing, I’d say we’re fine.”
Scavello said he wants to set up grants to fund additional positions in state police departments, some of which he says cannot afford to replace an officer when they retire. He also advocates for the construction of a “state-of-the-art hospital in the middle of the state” as an alternative to incarceration for people with certain disabilities and mental health diagnoses.
“They need help,” Scavello said. “And they shouldn’t be in jail.”
The date and location of the next hearing have not yet been announced.