|Sheriff Dave Dalrymple waits to make his presentation. Immediately behind him are|
Police Chiefs Carl Scalzo (Easton) and Larry Palmer (Palmer).
Its technical name is the Regional Intelligence and Investigative Center (RIIC) or Regional Crime Center, and has been in existence since 2012. But despite its regional application, which has extended to police departments in Bethlehem and Easton, there's been no regional support. Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin has been forced, year after year, to ask Lehigh County Commissioners to fund this crime-fighting tool.
The main obstacle in Northampton County was then Sheriff Randy Miller. But there's a new Sheriff in town. David Dalrymple, who actually ran the Intelligence Section of the New Jersey State Police, is well aware of the use of computers to aggregate data and solve crimes. He calls the RIIC "a step beyond" what he saw in New Jersey.
At their March 28 meeting, Dalrymple stood in front of Northampton County's nine-member Gaming Board on March 28 to seek $407,000 in slots revenue so that Northampton County can formally become a part of the RIIC. Informally, Lehigh County DA Jim Martin has already been making the Regional Crime Center's services available to Northampton County's police departments in Bethlehem and Easton..
Dalrymple spoke both as Sheriff and on behalf of the Northampton County Police Chiefs' Association, which recently voted unanimously to support the RIIC. Police Chiefs Mark DiLuzio (Bethlehem), Guy Lesser (Lower Saucon), Larry Palmer (Palmer Tp), Carl Scalzo (Easton) and Robert Shupp (Hellertown) were in the audience and acknowledged by Gaming Chair Jay Finnigan. In addition to the police chiefs, about half of Northampton County's Assistant District Attorneys were also present, showing their support.
Earlier this year, Northampton County DA John Morganelli announced that Northampton County had signed on to a digital forensics lab established at DeSales University by Lehigh County DA Jim Martin in 2011. At that time, Morganelli expressed his desire to join the Regional Crime Center, using gaming funds.
What is the RIIC?
|DAs Jim Martin, John Morganelli agree on|
RIIC, Digital Forensics Lab
A perfect example of the Regional Crime Center's value is the 2013 investigation of Ulysses "Slime" Rodriguez. He was convicted in a shooting death earlier that year, outside of Scoobies Gentlemen's Club. Rodriguez was observed leaving the scene in a vehicle with taillights that started at the roof and got wider toward the middle of the vehicle. It could only be a Volvo or a Honda CRV.
Examination of prison records at the Regional Crime Center revealed just a few jail visitors drove those models, and the getaway car was soon identified. The vehicle's owner only knew Rodriquez as "Slime", but RIIC review of millions of incident reports quickly revealed that "Slime" was none other than Rodriquez.
Sheriff Dalrymple explained that the $407,000 sought will enable Northampton County's 30 police departments to integrate the information from their incident reports and investigative files with Lehigh County's 17 police departments, state and federal agencies, and data from both county jails.
In addition to enabling police in the Slate Belt to understand what is happening in Emmaus, Dalrymple stated that the Regional Crime Center will make them aware of trends and will provide timely investigative support that is currently unavailable to most departments.
Dalrymple explained that if someone committed a crime in the meeting room, he could forward the surveillance camera images to the RIIC, and in-house analysts would them provide them to every police department in the Lehigh Valley. "We could immediately get input," he noted, instead of having a detective make calls and send images to a newspaper.
Dalrymple told James Pennington that crime centers are "commonplace," nationally. But he said that what makes the RIIC unique and valuable are the in-house analysts who make associations and "tell you what you need to know."
"We feel passionate about this," said the Sheriff. "This is a product that will enhance immeasurably investigations, officer safety and prosecutions within the County." He added that, if he were still a young detective, the RIIC would probably have to block his calls because he'd inundate them. "It's that good," he argued.
Dalrymple assured the Gaming Board that the RIIC has been instrumental in many prosecutions and investigations arising from or related to the Sands Casino. Earlier, Fremanburg Borough Manager Judith Danko provided a study demonstrating that casinos lead to a rise in major crime after five years in business. "Basically, the impact is all around us," explained the Sheriff.
Total of $2.2 Million in Grants Sought
Dalrymple will find out on April 25 whether the Gaming Board is willing to fund all or any of the RIIC. There are numerous other applications. Altogether, over $2.2 million is being sought. Slots revenue this year is projected at just $1.7 million, according to Gaming Chair Finnigan. Gaming Board members will rate each grant request
By law, the first round of grants must go to Bethlehem, Northampton County and the five municipalities surrounding Bethlehem. These are Hanover Township, Bethlehem Township, Lower Saucon Township and Freemansburg and Hellertown. To be successful, they must show they've been impacted by gambling. If any money is left over, it can be awarded to other municipalities.
This year's other grant applications are as follows
$88,749 - Replacement of three Lifespan 12 Cardiac Monitors (EMS Director Tom Decker explained that there were 11,652 calls last year, and 832 of them were for problems at the casino)Bethlehem Tp.
$39,935- 45 sets of body armor for EMS personnel (Decker admitted this is something new for Bethlehem, although he said they are used in Allentown.
$300,000 - Heavy Rescue Truck. (Bethlehem Tp Volunteer Fire Co. Ass't Chief Ron Ford admitted no heavy rescue truck has been needed at the casino, but Bethlehem Township is a back up provider there and is responsible for 10 1/2 square miles in the Township, including vehicles travelling to and from the casino. His department makes about 800 calls per year, and 40% are for accidents. The heavy rescue truck is used between 12-24 times per year).Freemansburg. -
$110,000. - for the retention of a police officer.
$6,813 - Tasers.
$42,400 - Two License Plate Recognition Systems. (Bethlehem Township already has four. Gerald Yob said he had just read that day that the state will be offering grants to local police departments, and CPT Gregory Gottschall agreed that some state funding might be available).
$73,854 - Public safety software. (CPT Gregory Gottschall explained this funding would help the Township integrate with the RIIC).
$104,723 - Two police vehicles. (Manager Melissa Shafer said there's applications to Monroe County for another four cruisers. CPT Gregory Gottschall stated that five or six cruisers are on patrol during peak hours)
$110,000 - Full Time Police Officer. (Manager Judith Danko explained that major crime is now increasing in her borough, including an armed robbery, nine burglaries and even counterfeiting during 2015. There were also 47 DUIs last year.)Hanover Tp.
$50,633 - Ford Police Interceptor operated by Colonial Regional PoliceHellertown.-
$219,150 - Two police officers.Lower Saucon. -
$164,777 - Ambulance for Dewey Fire Company (replacing 11 year old vehicle. Dewey Ambulance responded to the casino six times last year.)
$105,438 - Police officer.Northampton County. -
$37,571 - Police vehicle.
$60,603 - Fire police vehicle (replaces 2006 ambulance with 212,000 miles)
$196,116 - for Coroner equipment modernization, including portable X-ray machines Coroner Zach Lysek discussed the possibility of a tragedy like a casino bus or even a school bus flipping over. "We need to be prepared for when it happens," he said.The Gaming Board members who will rate and decide on these applications are Joe Kelly (Bethlehem), Tom Nolan (Bethlehem Tp), Gerald Yob (Freemansburg), Jay Finnigan (Hanover), Dave Heintzelman (Hellertown), Dave Willard (Lower Saucon), Tony Pristash (Northampton), John Dally (Pen Argyl) and James Pennington (Lower Nazareth).
$10,000 - Interpreter Fees. Court Administrator Jill Smith explained that the County does have an in-house Spanish interpreter, but paid $38,720 last year for interpreters in other languages. She indicated there's been a rise in the need for Asian language and Indian language interpreters, largely as a result of the casino.
$100,442 - Gambling Addiction Treatment and Support. Drug and Alcohol Administrator Tiffany Rossanese explained that her department did 967 gambling screenings last year, and 10% of those were identified as being at risk, which is twice the national average and five times what Northampton County was before the casino. The funding provided to the County goes to education at the schools and faith-based institutions, and provides transitional housing to people who have lost their homes as a result of gambling.