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Kittanning police chief to host crime-watch dinner

| Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

KITTANNING — Police Chief Bruce Mathews invites all borough seniors to join him for a free spaghetti dinner this Saturday. Mathews and other members of the force will be on hand at the Church of God, 629 Woodward Ave., at 6 p.m. to help serve the main dish.

Although Mathews is the organizer of the event, he is quick to assure residents that he is not the chef.

“I won't be cooking the spaghetti,” he said, “and Chef Boyardee won't be there, either.”

While spaghetti (courtesy of Villa Rosa Restaurant ) may be the main dish, the main idea behind the pasta is partnering — police partnering with residents. Mathews is eager to get a clearer picture of the community's needs.

“The community sets the standard for normal behavior, for what's acceptable,” the chief said. “So we definitely want their input.”

Joie Pryde, 2nd Ward council member, said, “It's about neighbors helping neighbors.”

Mathews and other borough officers will be attending to listen to, talk with and answer questions from the diners.

“We want to develop the best rapport with them,” he said. “We need to have good communication with residents in order to protect them the best way that we can.”

The police force is comprised of seven full-time officers and several part-time staff, so communication within law enforcement is crucial.

“Since all of the department rotate shifts, the one common denominator is me,” Mathews said. “I want residents to know that I want to hear from them.”

Kittanning's Crime Watch has been the means for many local residents to support safety measures where they live. Two meetings have been held under Mathew's direction.

“We're not looking to change,” he said. “We just want to have the clearest idea of what the group thinks will work best.”

One point that Mathews would like to address with the Crime Watch group is the method used by residents to report their concerns.

“I don't want anyone to hesitate to call 911 to report suspicious activity,” he said.

The particulars of the process will be revisited by the group in order to ensure the protection of those who make such reports.

Mathews sees the complexities of crime fighting and appreciates the need for such community involvement.

“We live in such a mobile society,” he said. “Fifteen or 20 years ago, when a crime was committed, it was much easier to build a case because you probably knew those involved. That's not the case today.”

Councilwoman Pryde agrees.

“Community crime watchers can be another set of eyes and ears for law enforcement.”

Mathews strongly encourages residents to get involved by bringing theirs ideas, concerns and especially their appetites to the free spaghetti dinner. Wallets may be left at home. But tips — crime tips — will be gladly accepted.

Diane Orris Acerni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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