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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Allentown Vision Center: A Cure for Pawlowski's Myopia

On Friday, Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski was doing what he does best - puffing about Allentown in a state-of-the-city address at the Holiday Inn at 9th & Hamilton. Believe it or not, you had to pay $12 for the privilege of listening to his spin. Don't know whether he was doing his power point thing.

If you walked across the street to visit the Allentown Vision Center, you'd hear a much different tale from Kathy Dalton for free. Unlike most of the Hamilton Street businesses in that vicinity, the Vision Center has been around for ten years, and without a nickel of public support. Owners Mark and Kathy Dalton have hung in there, but are increasingly disenchanted by a city government and newspaper that just don't give a damn. Their shop windows have been broken four times since the new year began. Twice, merchandise has been stolen.

You won't read about this in the newspaper. Nobody was killed or maimed. In fact, Kathy tells me that the police report number for the latest incident is somewhere in the 400s, even though this was only early January. No report of these four instances of vandalism ever appeared in The Morning Call. There's only so much space, but this failure to cover the actual news perpetuates a Pawlowski myth that public safety is improving.

Those Big Brother blue cameras sprinkled throughout the city to deter precisely this kind of criminal mischief? Completely ineffective, according to the Daltons. For one thing, there's a ten second delay, ten seconds that could mean the difference between life and death when public safety is involved. In addition to the delay, police officers tell Kathy those cameras get very blurry when it rains or snows.

While completely failing in their duty to protect the Daltons from the criminal element, city officials had no problem citing them last Winter for not painting their facade, even though it's insane to paint in freezing weather. The Daltons paid their fine.

Frustrated, the Daltons and Allentown Vision Center are considering moving somewhere else. Can you really blame them?

Kathy was kind enough to allow me to share her email with you

My name is Kathy Dalton, and my husband, Mark, and I own the Allentown Vision Center. Our office is in center city, at 939 Hamilton Street. I know the Lehigh Valley is not lacking in providing content for your blog, but the story of what is currently happening at my Downtown Allentown business may be of interest to you. I’m a big fan of your blog, and I know this story is probably too small for you to touch, but it’s worth a shot.

Since the new year began, we’ve had our vision center windows broken 4 times, with someone breaking and entering the building (and stealing merchandise) twice. It has been a terrible start to the year, as you can imagine. We’ve been doing business downtown for over 10 years, and we bring whole lot of foot traffic to Hamilton – sometimes as many as 100 folks a day.

The reason I’m writing is because I would normally expect to see crime like this reported in the paper, but there’s been no mention in the police blotter or elsewhere. Also, we hired our own security for one evening after the 3rd incident, only to learn that police only rapidly drove by our business 4 times on Hamilton between the hours of 9 PM and 4 AM – this is amazing to me, considering the police know we are being targeted. We’ve had absolutely no luck getting the police to report to us what may have been seen by the security cameras recently installed by the city, and we learned last night that the cameras are basically inoperable when it rains or snows!! (The precipitation blurs the camera’s images!) I respect the APD, but I am concerned at the lack of response to our problems, and I thought this would make a great story for your blog . Considering that the mayor is reporting a decrease in crime, this case study offers a glimpse of those of us dealing with the reality of crime in Allentown.

Thanks for your time. If you want to follow-up, you may call my private cell phone at xxx-xxx-xxxx, or you may simply visit the office. We’re open between 9 and 5, with a lunch from 1 to 2, but we’ll gladly meet with you during lunch if that is easiest for you. Keep up the good work blogging! (I’ll also be contacting Mike Molovinsky about this – I hope that’s not bad manners to contact 2 bloggers about the same story.) Keep up the good work blogging!

Thank you –

Kathy Dalton
Allentown Vision Center
939 Hamilton St.
Allentown, PA 18101
OFFICE: 610-434-1000
Update: Micchael Molovinsky, the other blogger contacted, has a related post.


Bill said...

With no reporting in the paper and the police no longer meeting with residents or business owners to file reports, how are we to know anything at all actually occurs?

Chris Casey said...

The Daltons are good people who deserve better. I wonder if Ed looks at his campaign contributors list before deciding if an issue gets addressed? ABW having a crime problem? I bet if their alarm went off, or they had a burglary, there would be some action.

Anonymous said...

Just how does community policing work in Allentown? Is there a community police office anywhere along Hamilton Street? If not, shouldn't there be one?

Just asking. A good program would identify the hot spots, then put feet on the street. This active presense would then deter crime and provide a measure of confidence for shoppers and shop keepers alike.

Or am I wrong?


Kathy Dalton said...

Thanks for the post, Bernie.

As an update, I can tell you that the Morning Call did send a reporter to our store after I sent the news desk a tip. Jarrett Renshaw also responded to my e-mail, even though yesterday was his day off. I am not sure why the police reports are not available to the media yet, but that's one reason why the news organizations haven't picked up this story. What happens to police reports after a crime? I don't understand why some crimes are in the paper the next day, yet this one has disappeared, despite 4 occurances.

Also, Councilman Donovan responded to my e-mail with a phone call minutes after I e-mailed him. Impressive!

My main concern now is the families of our staff. Our business provides a living for not only Mark and I and our kids, but the families of our staff of 8 employees. (And we were looking to hire another, but that might be bagged since we're drowning in new security costs.) I cannot understand how a business - the SAME business - gets broken into 4 times in 3 weeks, and yet the police are simply NOT around this area at night. Not at all. And I know this because I've been there myself at night to check out the scene. Let's just say Hamilton gets mighty scary around midnight on the weekend.

Our business is a vibrant place with an eclectic patient base - we love it, because it represents the integration among social and economic classes that you'd expect to see in much larger cities. We know we're smarter than criminals, so don't count us out yet, but we are in need of a little help from the city and police at this point.

If anyone has any recommendations, let me know! I appreciate the write-up and the support. Our patients give surrounding business a ton of foot traffic - I know we're an asset to downtown, but does the city know this?

Anonymous said...

There us actually a new police station moving into 10th & Hamilton at the Parking Authority building.

The Parking Authority will move to 6th & linden which is now under renovation.

Anonymous said...

This downtown Allentown business owner doesn't know the bicycle officers who are through there all of the time and know everyone on the street?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I don't think the location of the police department matters so much. After all, the current police station is only a few blocks away. More important, I would think, is the number of police officers who are actually on the job. They do not have ten second delays. They can see in the rain or snow.

ironpigpen said...

That shop is an honest piece of dying Americana. I pass by all the time.

Downtown is unfortunate.

That's about polite as it gets.

Great picuture, O'H

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Bernie.
This is a horribly sad letter and what courage this couple has to stay.
These blue cameras are a joke.
Maybe this couple would do better moving.
An Allentown-based chat line reports almost daily although the news does not make the local paper that there are endless car hit and runs. Folks waking up to find their only source of transportation damaged.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard anything about that Salisbury officer hit and run last Friday night?

Kathy Dalton said...

Yes, we know the bike cops - they are great and we appreciate their service and dedication. Of course, these hits are happening at night, so that's the problem.

I would like to say that the Morning Call has responded VERY quickly to my news tip from yesterday, and Jarrett Renshaw has called me to discuss the situation personally. In my opinion, the Call cannot be psychic, so if a crime is not reported to them, they cannot be expected to write about it. Once I notified the Call about our story, the response was intense and immediate. I applaud their efforts, as well as the efforts of bloggers like Bernie and Molovinsky, among others. I also think the PD is doing the best they can with what they have. There's nobody to blame here except the criminal. And, I think this is an important case study on the state of business on Hamilton. Crime is our #1 obstacle now, not business, and I bring our case to the blogoshpere and the media in search of solutions, not blame. Everyone here has ideas to offer, and I appreciate them.

Anyways, wish us luck. I appreciate the feedback. Mark and I will emerge from this stronger than before.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kathy, It was nice of Jarrett to call you so promptly. He is their best. And you are right; the paper is not a psychic.

Anonymous said...

Does the city own the property at 6th and Linden?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Does the city own the property at 6th and Linden?

12:48 PM

So funny you would ask that.

Anonymous said...

I'm drawing a blank - what's up with 6th / Linden?

Bill said...

Kathy Dalton said:

"I don't understand why some crimes are in the paper the next day, yet this one has disappeared, despite 4 occurrences."

I hate to say it but maybe there was never a report. That is one way to keep the crime stats down. And with minimal media involvement, who would ever know?