Harmar drug activity down due to visible police presence, chief says
Harmar police Chief Jason Domaratz said a visible police presence is curtailing drug activity at the township’s hotels.
“I would say within the last year, from what I’ve seen, it’s went down a lot from what we had,” Domaratz recently told the Tribune-Review. “I think a big part of that is having the patrols out there. When they’re seeing the police cars, I think that’s a big deterrent.”
As of July 3, seven full-time officers, including Domaratz, and five part-timers were employed by the roughly 6 1⁄2-square-mile township, which has access to two major roadways: Route 28 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Domaratz said people use hotels in the township to conduct drug activity because of their proximity to the roadways.
“It’s an easy location … from say, Philly or Harrisburg and Ohio, whatever it may be. It’s a good meeting spot. Halfway,” Domaratz said. “We’ve come across meth, heroin, cocaine, marijuana. A bundle of everything.”
The township gets help from state police and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Narcotics Enforcement Team, also known as DANET, when it comes to drug activity in hotels and residences.
Domaratz said those agencies help offset the cost of overtime and manpower needed to conduct drug investigations because the township can’t afford it alone.
“They have assisted us when we’ve had issues, where they can fund it, instead of putting that burden on the township,” Domaratz said.
Domaratz has been chief in Harmar for more than eight years.
He performs administrative and working duties and fills patrol shifts when needed.
“I pretty much try to patrol every day myself. It all depends on what else is going on,” he said. “One of my big things is for my guys to be seen. Patrols are big. That’s a big part of their day.”
The department responds to an average of 300 to 350 emergency calls a month, the majority being for car crashes and domestic incidents.
Officers do plenty of traffic enforcement, particularly at the intersection of Freeport Road and Route 910 during rush hour.
“Everybody tries to get over and they’re blocking the intersection, which causes (traffic) problems on Freeport Road,” Domaratz said. “We try to keep an eye on that, but I think we have the light adjusted pretty good at this point where it’s helping us out. It’s not happening as often, but it’s still an issue.”
Another traffic problem is tractor-trailers not following the proper truck routes through the township or ignoring weight limits on township roads.
“They’ll turn right onto a residential road, and they can’t back up,” Domaratz said. “(We) end up seeing a mess once we get there. It’s usually too late. They’ve already taken wires, telephone poles and everything down.”
The department is staffed 24/7. No fewer than two officers are scheduled per shift, which is something the chief always wanted.
“Looking back on the days of us having one guy a shift, it just seemed it was a lot more busy and we were scrambling to get help,” Domaratz said. “Even as a patrolman, I always felt that we needed a second car out. Now that we have it, I feel that that helps a lot with our call volume.”
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, [email protected] or via Twitter .