Recommendations To Hire More Officers

07.05.13 | Abby Lutcher

The report includes several recommendations to help combat thedrugs and violent crime in the city -- one of them to hire more officers. But the question remains: with what resources? "Unfortunately it boils down to how much money you have to do things and howmuch manpower you have to do things," said Johnstown Police Chief Craig Foust. "We can't sustain that kind of extra patrols without some help." State House Rep. Bryan Barbin said the report is based around a model formed by Altoona. It's one he said Johnstown could benefit from. "Altoon made the case. They said the character of the city was changing, so they went to the business community and they said, "If you help us, this is what we can do,'" said Barbin. But that's something that's already happening in Johnstown. "We were complaining to City Hall about the situation downtown, the loiterers and whatnot, and they said we had to find a solution ourselves, and we did," said Sharon Honkus. Honkus is the owner of Celestial Brides and Prom. She's also one of about 22 business owners who already pay $300 a year for police presence downtown three days a week. She said she's not sure that she could chip in any more without receiving something in return. "Our taxes are already higher than anywhere else, and now to say they expect more from businesses, I just don't think that's a viable solution," said Honkus. Some council members said the solution might be in the hands of nonprofits -- the 50 percent of city property owners who are exempt from paying taxes. "They get our police protection, they get our fire protection, they get the public works, and they don't help out at all," said Johnstown City Council member William Gentile Jr. "It's time to step up to the plate and help out the city a little bit." And while council has been trying to come up with money to hire more officers for years, they agree they no longer have a choice. "We're just going to make it happen," said City Council member Marie Mock. "I mean, I'm not going to go into details or anything like that, but you see it and you need to get to it."