U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today called on the U.S. Department of Justice to provide assistance to help local law enforcement and all levels of government in Reading to combat violent crime.
"Recent incidents of violent crime coupled with long term trends are a concern for communities across the Greater Reading area, so it's time for the Department of Justice to step up and provide assistance to protect our communities," said Senator Casey. "I'm requesting that the Department of Justice send experts on combating violent crime to hold a summit in Reading to share best practices and devise a plan to help our local law enforcement and government leaders more effectively crack down on crime."
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Senator Casey cited recent incidents of murders and assaults that have plagued the community and asked the Attorney General to help Reading convene a crime summit.
"Despite some successes in the past, a number of crimes this year continue to alarm area citizens and point to yet another deeply concerning trend. I look forward to working with the Department to develop creative solutions and identify best practices to address this ongoing issue."
Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer recently expressed interest in holding a summit with local and federal officials to devise and refine anti-crime strategies.
Senator Casey's letter to Attorney General Holder is below:
Dear Mr. Attorney General,
I write today regarding alarmingly high levels of violent crime in Reading, Pennsylvania, and to request Department of Justice support to address the matter. As you may know, Reading has long suffered from the consequences of violent crime. Despite some successes in the past, a number of crimes this year continue to alarm area citizens and point to yet another deeply concerning trend. I look forward to working with the Department to develop creative solutions and identify best practices to address this ongoing issue.
The city of Reading and the surrounding region have struggled with violent crime in the past, but experienced a serious uptick in recent years. Last year, at my request, the National Drug Intelligence Center issued a report detailing the influence of drug trafficking gangs from New York and New Jersey in Eastern Pennsylvania. The report noted the dominance of Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs), as well as the emergence of Reading as one of the most prominent cocaine markets in the eastern United States. According to Congressional Quarterly, in 2011 Reading was ranked the fifth most-dangerous city out of 134 municipalities with populations between 75,000 and 100,000.
This year, tragic incidents of violent crimes appear to continue the trend. Just this month, on the weekend of July 14th, two shootings occurred within 24 hours. News reports indicated that one of the shootings was related to drugs and led to the murder of a 19-year old. More recently, on July 26th, a pizza deliveryman was assaulted and robbed by four men. Regrettably, these are just a few of the murders, assaults and other incidents that have struck Reading this year. In fact, city officials indicate that with nine firearms-related homicides having already occurred in 2012, the murder rate is on track to surpass last year's figure. Recent media coverage also describes community residents feeling a sense of despair over the seriousness and frequency of these crimes.
In August, I would like to convene a summit of federal, state and local authorities in order to share best practices and to highlight possible solutions to reduce violent crime in the Greater Reading region. I am writing to request that relevant officials from the Department of Justice, along with the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, lead a dialogue on violent crime between all levels of government in the region. This summit would also be an opportunity among all parties to offer feedback on the successes and shortcomings of various strategies.
With the shared goal of supporting the fight against violent crime in Reading, I look forward to collaboration between my office and your Department to convene the summit. I would also request that you make available officials to work with members of my staff, in order to determine the most productive and effective role for the Department to play at the summit.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator