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Mon Valley Police Regionalization Hits Wall After 3 Boroughs Drop Out

RANKIN, Pa. (KDKA) -- Carl Lewis owns and runs a small convenience store in Rankin and worries about violent crime.

Just last year, he says someone shot his grandson in nearby Hawkins Village.

"He was shot in the arm. Doesn't have full use of it anymore. He's only 20 years old. It's a shame," Lewis said.

While shootings, homicides and other major crimes are on the rise throughout the Mon Valley, Rankin and the surrounding boroughs are patrolled by a handful of part-time police officers, some of who make $11 an hour.

In Rankin, Pennsylvania State Police — who have other duties — handle the overnight shifts, and the town concedes response time can be lengthy.

But Lewis thinks there's a solution.

"I think if we were able to pull our resources together. They're all small towns. They're all struggling to survive. They don't have the resources to survive on their own," said Lewis.

mon valley police
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

In a state Department of Community and Economic Development study — Rankin, Whitaker, Braddock, North Braddock and East Pittsburgh could form a regional police force, pool resources, hire decently paid, fully-trained officers and provide better service to residents and businesses.

Rankin Police Chief Ryan Wooten is all in.

"What do we have now? We have part-time police that works two and three jobs to keep the lights on and food on the table. So it's going to be a win-win for everybody," Wooten said.

But the plan hit a major roadblock after Whittaker, Braddock and North Braddock dropped out. Braddock Police Chief Guy Collins says under the plan, his officers would need to resign and reapply, resulting in some losing their jobs.

Rather than improve coverage, Collins says there would be fewer officers patrolling a wider geographic area.

East Pittsburgh no longer has a police department. The borough disbanded after a part-time officer, Michael Rosfeld, shot and killed a fleeing Antwon Rose Jr. three years ago. Now it relies entirely on state police for protection.

While grateful for the help, East Pittsburgh Borough Manager Seth Abrams says the state troopers are not a replacement.

"They're not our neighborhood police. They don't know our residents. It's difficult to have that proactive policing. They're only there when something bad happens," Abrams said.

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