Stead outlines public safety plans

JOHNSTOWN – A Fulton County official outlined for supervisors Monday the county’s Strategic Plan in place since 2011, including the latest public safety initiative he hopes will grab public interest.

County Administrative Officer Jon Stead gave a presentation to the Board of Supervisors at the County Office Building. He said the third and last initiative of the plan relates to public safety, and the county and the public can get more involved.

“Street-level crime is getting to be a concern,” Stead said.

He noted the county is considering purchase of an Armadillo armored “nuisance abatement” vehicle to help fight crime in Fulton County neighborhoods. He said the vehicle would be used primarily to combat drug trafficking and surveil “crack houses” in the area.

Stead said he and District Attorney Louise Sira have also discussed getting public volunteer groups and church groups involved in improving security in county neighborhoods. He said the plan doesn’t call for creation of neighborhood watches, which are in place anyway, but could involve expansion of what they do.

“It’s a little bit of a different twist on neighborhood watches,” Stead said.

He said law enforcement agencies within the county see an increasing criminal threat.

“We do have that influence,” Stead said. “We’re a marketplace for drug activity and other criminal activity.”

The rest of the public safety initiative of the Strategic Plan involves elements such as purchasing more license plate readers and continuing to reduce blight.

Another component would be creation of an “inter-agency” intelligence officer position between Sira’s office and police.

“They’re telling us we need to be better at that,” Stead said.

Stead said the county needs to put more resources into this initiative, and Sira will have more to relate with specifics to the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety Committee on Aug. 25.

The first element of the Strategic Plan was to streamline county government in 2011 by doing such things as selling the nursing home, transferring mental health services to private agencies and laying off certain personnel. He said county personnel was cut by 35 percent since then to bring the county out of a financial hole.

“We believe we have kind of gotten out of it, where we are stable,” Stead said.

The second phase of the plan is the “Jump Start” economic development initiative taking hold this year, involving such projects as “SMART Waters,” the Tryon redevelopment and the proposed regional business park.

“There [are] some risks involved,” he said of this initiative.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.