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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Allentown, Where Justice Is Delayed and Denied

LVCI has posted a disturbing blog about an Allentown woman who was assaulted and left for dead. Allentown's finest actually arrested the guy on unrelated charges, but released him and let him roam the streets for a year. They only acted after the victim went to CBS News. Not only did the police fail in its mission to protect, but local media outlets also dropped the ball. A Philly news outlet had to break a story that was missed by The Morning Call and local blogosphere.

Allentown has a problem, and it's pretty clear that this problem stems from an undermanned police department. I thought this might be a good time to repeat a story I first told you over two years ago.
On Monday, I met congressional candidate Sam Bennett's 78 year-old newspaper delivery man. I'll call him Mr. A. He has asked me to keep his name and address off this post. He is afraid. He has reason to be afraid. From Bennett to Allentown police to the Morning Call itself, Mr. A has clearly been ignored. Old folks seem to mean very little to them.


Let me tell you a little bit about Mr. A. When I visited him on Monday in west Allentown, the first thing I noticed was his yard. Every square inch was growing lettuce and other edibles. When I walked inside his modest home, vegetables of all kinds were growing all over the place. Mr. A is on a vegan diet. While I was at his home, a nice lady and her pretty young daughter dropped by with a few vegan meals. He promised to repay their kindness with plenty of veggies in a few weeks. I was thinking about cheeseburgers.

Mr. A speaks three different languages, is well-educated and was employed as a professional before his retirement. He began work as a newspaper delivery man so that he could control his high blood pressure. He had trouble staying on an exercise program, but the delivery job did the trick. In a month, his blood pressure was perfect.

Mugging on Bennett's Porch

On October 27th, at 4:30 AM, Mr. A had just picked up his newspapers and was starting his route. His very first home is the Historic Benner Home owned by congressional candidate Sam Bennett. As Mr. A ascended the steps, he was grabbed from behind and thrown onto the steps like a rag doll. A Hispanic-looking man, between 25 and 35, simply said "Money! I need money." He tussled with this fellow, who was wearing a long jacket between beige and orange in color along with some sort of black cloth on his head. During the encounter, Mr. A noticed that Sam Bennett had opened one of her windows and was watching the incident. By the time she came outside, the assailant was gone. He had taken about $20, a driver's license and a credit card.

Sam Bennett and Mr. A agreed about the description of his assailant. She commiserated with him, telling him she had been robbed herself. She promised to call police. Mr. A sat on her porch and waited thirty minutes. No police officer showed up, so he finished his route, went home and called police himself. He also called Bennett to ask why she never called the police, but all he got was her voice mail. Officer Heiserman came to Mr. A's home and took a statement (Complaint 07-90144). At this point, Mr. A learned that no one had called police before his own call.

Mr. A Disputes Sam Bennett's Stories

Sam Bennett actually has two explanations for this incident. At first, she was somewhat incredulous. "I broke up that mugging. What are you talking about? I've even called in stabbings. We are the first ones to call in disturbances. He [Mr. A] was getting mugged on my front steps, and I went outside in my pajamas and broke it up. I made sure he was OK. I told him to stop delivering the paper in the dark. He was traumatized. I stayed in communication with him throughout that whole thing. I was not the one who called the dispatcher. I get my paper later now. I told him not to deliver until it is lighter."

Later that day, she sent me an email to "add" to her original story, although it appears to be inconsistent with her original statement. "Living as we do next door to the Hotel Traylor, my husband and I over the years have found ourselves calling the police frequently about stabbings, gunshots, street fights and more. When I jumped out of bed and flung open the front door of our home early that morning, I incorrectly assumed it was yet another drunken interaction on our front steps. My response was to admonish the misbehavers and send them home. I did not know that our newspaper man had actually been mugged until the next day when he and I spoke on the phone. I’m glad I opened my door and hopefully prevented further harm from being committed in response to the noise I heard. But in hindsight I wish that I had known what was really happening, because in that event I would have called the police.”

I read each explanation to Mr. A. After hearing Version #1, Mr. A simply stated, "That is false." Once I read Version #2, Mr. A quietly responded, "This is a lie, too."

Morning Call Screws Up its Story, Too!

The day after the mugging, the Morning Call did run a story, asking anyone with information to call the police. But instead of reporting that Mr. A was robbed at the Historic Benner Home, the paper erroneously listed Mr. A's own address. After many calls, the paper finally ran a brief correction to indicate that the robbery had actually occurred at 25 South 15th Street. That was November 10.

Allentown Police Conduct Shoddy Investigation

In addition to losing $20, Mr. A also lost a credit card. Right after calling police, Mr. A also called his credit card company. He was told the card had already been used three times at two different locations - the Sunoco at 12th & Hamilton and the 7-11 at 7th & Linden. Mr. A visited both stores to see if there were any surveillance photos. Sunoco had surveillance videos, but refused to show them to Mr. A, claiming they could only show them to police.

But thank heaven for 7-11. The manager took pity on Mr. A, and gave him a computer copy of a photo of Mr. A's assailant, taken as A's credit card was used to purchase cartons of cigarettes. You can see a grainy copy of that photo at the top of this blog.

Mr. A immediately called police, but they told him they "didn't have time to look." They refused to go to either store. He was told he would have to wait for a detective.

A neighbor, who works for the Lehigh County District Attorney, told him her office has detectives, and two of them soon visited Mr. A. Although they lack jurisdiction to investigate, they at least made sure that an Allentown detective, Thomas Anderson, was assigned to the case.

Unfortunately, Detective Anderson has had no time to investigate this matter, either. "I told him those videos don't last forever, but Anderson claimed he doesn't have time." When Mr. A showed Detective Anderson the picture he obtained on his own, the investigator snapped, "You're not supposed to have that." Anderson did eventually send a written request for the videos. But it was too late. The videos are gone.

In the meantime, Mr. A actually saw his assailant in the Hotel Traylor lobby. He called for Detective Anderson, who was unavailable. He spoke to Anderson's boss, who told him they were "too busy" to do anything.

Mr. A finally called Congressman Charlie Dent. He tells me Dent called some Allentown official in his presence and in no uncertain terms told him to do his job.

Not long after that, Detective Anderson did stop by Mr. A's home with a picture. Mr. A was at the hospital undergoing tests. His high blood pressure has returned. "The magic is gone." Mr. A has since visited the police department repeatedly to try and see Anderson, but he's always too busy, working a different shift, in the middle of an interview, etc.

Mr. A believes Allentown police are making the city "a paradise for the criminals." Given what he's gone through, I can understand his reluctance to give his name or precise address. It's more likely he will be visited by his assailant than a cop.

Morning Call Has No Regard For Robbed Carrier

The Morning Call demonstrated its disdain for Mr. A from the onset. It failed to publish the address where the robbery occurred, instead listing the home address of its own carrier. I asked him how the paper reacted. "Nobody approached me to ask if I was OK. I doubt the higher ups know anything. Those in Circulation just don't care."

Mr. A also tells me the newspaper at one time paid all carriers equally and distributed papers through its trucks. Now different carriers get different pay and he must go to headquarters himself for the paper, and is actually charged rent to put the paper together. "They are losing $4 million a year and are trying to get the money from the carriers." While he gets screwed, Mr. A tells me customers like Sam Bennett get a special discounted rate for her newspaper.


Last week, I told you about the problems Kari Holmes has had getting Allentown police to do anything concerning a racially-motivated assault. Mr. A's experience is even worse. He's been snubbed by a congressional candidate, Allentown police and a newspaper. Despite having a picture of his assailant and seeing him in the Hotel Traylor lobby, he's been ignored. The paper for whom he works offers no condolences and can't even get its report right. And the congressional candidate who was an eyewitness to the robbery has given varying accounts.


Anonymous said...

I recently had to go through the process of reporting a few crimes, one property against us and the other a domestic distrubance from really horrible neighbors. I have not been impressed by department response. When I email my area captain I usually get a good response. When I call the police com center, not so much.


LVCI said...

We have a half dozen radio stations. A TV station and a newspaper.. I wonder if mom emailed our local media and was ignored? If that would be the case, I would find it ironic that with all the tons of crap going on in Philly that the TV station still had the time to work on her case for the past 7 months (in Allentown some 60 miles away from their studios).

Course I don't know for a fact that Jessica's mother didn't go straight to the Phila. media for help. But if she didn't.. I know Bill didn't like it the 1st time I said it, but I will say it again. Isn't it a shame our paid professional local media isn't all over this story?

Anonymous said...

This is very upsetting but thank you for posting. People need to know how the police are conducting or not conducting their jobs but isn't it really up to a chief?

Anonymous said...

Jenn Mann needs to go. Her representation of this city is weak at best.

Pawlowski is not perfect either, but he is working hard and has guts . . . at least more so than anyone else willing to step up to the plate.

We need state representation that can align resources with the city's interests, not their political careers.

Anonymous said...

This is very serious. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

We agree Mann needs to go. Hope opponents are gearing up in the wings.

Anonymous said...

Anon said:

"Pawlowski is not perfect either, but he is working hard and has guts . . . at least more so than anyone else willing to step up to the plate."


Ed Pawlowski is directly responsible for the condition of the city.

If you think he is working hard, try to find him during daylight hours. The "work" is left to his overpriced assistants and managing director, paid for by the taxpayers.

Ed's time is now spent politicking.

Anonymous said...

I always thought proactive one thing we can do is go after folks with outstanding warrants. It seems the department mostly waits til the perp gets rearrested. My thought was to better utilize the sheriff and constables to pick up these folks, whether the warrant is civil, criminal, domestic or even parking. The backlog is huge. I also ask what happened to the joint drug task force which had been staffed with folks from the various police departments, the state police and sheriff departments.

Guy Williams said...

Bernie,Lets perform a litte experiment.You get the list of all the 911 calls reporting crimes on a given day.You then use your judgement and prioritize who gets responded to.We wanna know how you would react and what you would say to those that didnt get your attention to their complaint.Their are no excuses for Any crimes, from kids coming home with bloody nosees from fights and muggings to dog disputes and shoplifting, road rage etc,etc,etc.The sheer volumne requires prioritizing and im sure those incidents that have the best chance of resolution without a major investigation or use of manpower will get attention.You find this story sensational because of the players involved but their are countless similar stories out there.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I think your comment is meant for my other post today. When a woman is beaten and left for dead, I would think police would be interested in keeping the guy who did it, instead of cuttting him loose w/o even talking to him. When an elderly news carrier calls police bc he sees the man who mugged him, I'd expect them to come and pick the guy up.

There may be countless cases like this in Allentown, but ths is pretty much the exception in the LV.

Patrick McHenry said...

Bernie -

Let's face it, the Allentown police department is understaffed because of the decisions made by Ed Pawlowski.

He's added to the number of employees in the Community in Economic Development department, added numerous assistants to the Mayor, and created the position of Managing Director (who also has an assistant).

Many of these positions are political in nature and the Managing Director performs many of the duties that had been the responsibility of the Mayor. This allows Pawlowski to politic, glad-hand, and give the appearance of being involved while not having to actually do the work.

I would argue that the money spent on any of the positions noted above (and there are others) would be better spent on adding to the ranks of the police force.

Unfortunately, Pawlowski can't even be honest about the staffing on the police force. He'll ramble on about the number of officers hired while not even mentioning the number who have left. This is to deceive the uninformed.

If he wanted to be honest, he would let people know what he considers to be the right number of officers to properly police the city and offer solutions about how to get to that number. Sadly, Ed can't be bothered by such details.

Patrick McHenry said...

It's funny, Bethlehem has one murder over several years and they still look at it as a serious problem.

Allentown now has 10 murders through September and they'll try to spin it as an improvement.

Anonymous said...

Buck up and stop complaining about a few violent crimes. The mayor just got 72% of the vote and would likely poll higher today. Everything is great in Allentown. They love their mayor and the job he's done on, err with, the city. The city is a Democrat paradise. Look elsewhere for problems. Nothing to see here.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the video. Un-Freaking-believable. If you live in Allentown, as I do, my adivice would be to get your License to carry, take some shooting lessons, and walk out the door armed. The police are good for cleaning up the mess afterwards and that's about it. In this poor girl's case, obviously, not even that.

Anonymous said...

72% 0f 10% is 7.2%

That's what elected him. The rest have given up their rights. God help us if that is true nationally. We'll have nut cases in congressional and governor positions. I think the tea party folks have been spiking with pot before it gets legalized.