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Criminal arrests rise 10% in Latrobe

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Criminal arrests rose by almost 10 percent in Latrobe last year, while police patrolling Ligonier Valley communities received more criminal complaints last year than in 2011, according to statistics.

Criminal arrests rose in Latrobe by almost 10 percent in 2012 compared with 2011, while the number of criminal complaints that city police investigated last year fell by 5 percent compared with the previous year, according to police.

Latrobe police recorded 267 arrests in 2012, compared with 241 in 2011. The police department issued 364 traffic citations in 2012, up from 289 in 2011.

Latrobe police Chief James Bumar credited the increase in arrests to use of the K-9 officer as well as Beth Kellerman, the department's community service officer. With Kellerman handling duties such as fingerprinting and investigating city ordinance violations, the officers have more time for crime prevention and investigations, the chief said.

Department morale has improved over the past year, Bumar said.

“Everything is accomplished collectively. I let my officers know what they do is very important and necessary, and I get out of their way and let them do it,” he said.

The number of arrests increased while the number of thefts dropped in 2012 to 162 incidents, compared with 203 in the previous year. Assaults dropped as well to 38, from 47.

Disorderly conduct and domestic disturbance complaints decreased slightly in 2012 to 476 total complaints, from 493.

Incidents of drug offenses dropped to 40 last year, from 48 in 2011. The department has used officers with the Westmoreland County Drug and Alcohol Task Force, comprised of multiple law enforcement agencies, and has focused on arresting those involved in a drug network, not just the person arrested for drug possession.

“We're pursuing them (drug dealers) down the line. The task force has done a great job,” Bumar said.

There were five robberies reported in Latrobe last year, up from four in 2011. Eight sex offenses were reported last year, down from 11 in 2011.

The number of driving under the influence incidents in the city nearly doubled last year to 45, from 26 in 2011.

Police responded to 50 juvenile problems last year, compared with 60 in 2011.

There were two kidnapping/abduction reports in the city last year, but none in 2011.

Ligonier Valley

Local police patrolling Ligonier, Bolivar, New Florence and Seward boroughs and Ligonier and St. Clair townships, along with state police patrolling Cook and Fairfield townships, filed 119 criminal complaints before Ligonier District Judge Denise Snyder Thiel last year, a 7 percent increase from 112 in 2011.

In those Ligonier Valley communities, the spike in violent crimes in 2011 appears to have been an anomaly, but thefts doubled in 2012 compared with 2011.

Thirty of those complaints were related to thefts and include the charges of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiring to commit such crimes. There were 14 complaints filed for the same charges in 2011 and 20 filed in 2007.

“Since the economy has gone downhill, we've had a major increase in thefts,” said Ligonier Township police Chief Mike Matrunics. “A lot of it was jewelry or junk items that could be taken in and pawned for money.”

Ligonier Borough police Chief John Berger attributed the increase in some crimes to more frequent use of illegal drugs.

The number of violent crimes — such as homicide, aggravated assault, rape, terroristic threats and killing of animals— dwindled to two in 2012, down from 14 in 2011.

Officers covering the Ligonier Valley filed two complaints for violent crime last year. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol remained the most frequent crime in the area in 2012. About 32 percent of criminal complaints included driving under the influence.

“I'd like to say that we're clearing more cases than we have in previous years,” Matrunics said. “2012 was the best year of personnel for me — we had one or two officers on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and our follow-ups have been better. But I also think the economy has something to do with an increase in crimes.”

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or Staff writer Jewels Phraner contributed to this report.