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G7 Summit speakers cite benefits of communities working with state police

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

The G7 Summit kicked off Thursday at Laurelville Mennonite Center with more than 50 participants from seven Fayette and Westmoreland municipalities in attendance.

Sessions included public works; street departments; tax assessment and appeals; and crime control and relationship with state police.

“This is great,” event coordinator and Mt. Pleasant Borough Manager Jeff Landy said. “These are being really well attended.”

A representative from the Pennsylvania State Police joined local officers in discussing law enforcement issues.

Lt. John Dell of the Pennsylvania State Police outlined the types of services the state police offer to all municipalities — specialized K-9s; horses units for wooded area searches; aviation; forensic science; accident reconstruction; laboratory services; polygraph testing; bullet trajectory; and intelligence.

Dell said the state police act as backup units for municipalities that have departments and try to keep the municipalities that don't have police patrolled as much as possible.

Mt. Pleasant Police Assistant Chief Dan Zilli, who is with the Drug Task Force of Southwestern Pennsylvania, discussed services provided by the team.

“If you have a drug problem, I can be of assistance with finding equipment or undercover police officers,” Zilli said. “I can help to provide manpower and get people to other areas.”

Zilli said he is in the process of setting up a tip line, in which people can call and leave information or report suspicious activities without leaving their names.

“Complaints can be anonymous,” Zilli said, adding if a person gives their name, it helps the unit further its attempt to control drugs. “It's always better to have a name that we can contact. It always helps in my investigations.”

Mt. Pleasant Officer George Grippo discussed the K-9 program.

He outlined the activities, calls and arrests that he and his canine partner have been involved in over the past three years.

“Not all departments can afford a dog, but I am lucky enough to have community backing and the backing of council,” Grippo said.

Grippo said he raised more than $30,000 to keep the program afloat.

“Having a dog makes our job easier as a police officer, and our program has been very successful,” he said.

John Hartman, police chief of the Southwest Regional Police Department, explained how his department works and the benefits of having regional police in municipalities that can't afford their own departments.

“If you can consolidate police, you can consolidate parks, and you can consolidate fire departments,” Hartman said.

Hartman said the department functions as a regular police department, covering eight towns, and works hand in hand with local departments and state police.

“These are really big out East,” Hartman said of regional police departments. There are presently 32 in the state.

The G7, which continues today and Saturday, is hosted by Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale, Connellsville, South Connellsville, Everson, Youngwood and New Stanton.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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