Wednesday, December 02, 2020

NorCo Council - Defund the DA!

Lori Vargo-Heffner
Nobody donned an Antifa black mask during last night's final budget hearing of Northampton County Council. There were no cries of "Defund the Police!" But they certainly shackled law enforcement as well as Seattle City Council or the unruly mob that marched up and down Hamilton Street in Allentown this past summer.  In an astonishing bipartisan blunder, they voted to cut $50,000 of $100,000 that DA Terry Houck wants next year for the Regional  Intelligence and Investigation Center (RIIC). Supporting this mistake were Democrats Lori Vargo-Heffner, Kevin Lott and Bill McGee and Republicans John Cusick and Tom Giovanni. Opposed were Democrats Ron Heckman, Kerry Myers and Tara Zrinski. 

The author of this budget cut is Council VP Lori Vargo-Heffner. She's concerned with "continuing bi-county ventures" and noted the county just built a "beautiful forensic center." She complained that municipalities who take advantage of the RIIC make no contributions. Kevin Lott added that he'd like to see the increase justified, and John Cusick suggested the DA could pay for it out of the drug forfeiture fund. 

The RIIC has an annual budget of about $1.6 million, and Houck noted Lehigh County already pays the "lion's share" of the expense. 

The RIIC is primarily a source of intelligence. It is a mega data base from which investigators can review incident reports, investigations and data from numerous local, state and federal agencies. It uses this intelligence to solve crimes. 

The newly constructed forensic center performs a completely different role than the RIIC. In addition to being a place to store human remains, it has the capacity to perform digital forensic tests that can help solve crime. It plays no role in gathering or disseminating intelligence.  

DA Terry Houck
Houck noted that our dependence on technology and the related intelligence that comes with it, grows daily. "People walk around with their life in their front pocket," he said, in obvious reference to cell phones. This daily increase in information justifies the increased contribution. Houck dismissed the possibility of using drug forfeiture funds to pay for this venture, noting that state law requires that the money must be related to drugs. He added this is no bi-county venture because ongoing criminal activity knows no boundaries. He noted it's unrealistic to expect a tiny borough like Roseto to help pay for a RIIC, but its police force benefits from it every day. 

Kerry Myers, who sponsored several forums on police community relations, said that the RIIC is needed especially for impoverished communities who feel the impact of crime more severely than those who live in more well-to-do areas. "He needs this to fight crime in my community," noted Myers. "They may not all be property owners, but they're innocent people."   

Though Houck explained that increased technology justifies the increased contribution, Lott continued to complain about the increased cost.

"How much money is a life worth?" asked Kerry Myers.

For five members of County Council, the answer appears to be $50,000.  

Council has one last chance to visit this on Thursday night. If they make this cut, they are opting to be woke at the expense of making you less safe. You see, this is certainly bad government. But it's also incredibly stupid politics in a county that Biden barely won. Vargo-Heffner and McGee are up for re-election, and can explain to you next year why they bailed out on your safety.   

McGee was even tempted to deny Houck's request for an additional investigator, something in which Council really has no say. The District Attorney is an independently elected official, and has the right to hire as he sees fit. That's a principle that Houck's predecessor, John Morganelli, successfully established in Court.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is her background? What does she know about fighting crime? I am shocked they did not listen to the District Attorney plea. WAs there at least a discussion before this crazy vote. Very unimpressive and unfortunate tying the hands of people trying to fight crime in the Lehigh Valley. Not very smart. Can this be fixed?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Vargo-Heffner-Hefner knows nothing about crime fighting. There was a discussion, which I summarized. The DA was talking to a wall. I don’t get Cusick or Giovanni.

Anonymous said...

Elections have consequences and this is the council voters elected. I expect a lot more of the same as moderation is now seen as a character flaw. McClure will go along. This is part of the new new we've heard so much about.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for covering this for those of us who cannot attend, even virtually, at that hour. I couldn't find any recap on Lehigh Valley Live, who wants me to pay them to support local journalism because I value local news.

peterjcochran said...

Before you write off DA Houck’s request, consider if Alice Hall’s terrible stabbing and mutilation investigation would play out the same with today’s technology. In March of 1984 most of us couldn’t even call on a early mobile phone. So how is this technology going to help us? Well ,
Ring doorbells are a deterrent. iPhones are in effect intelligence devices and (G2) military by witch we can call our mothers. Fitbits ,Tesla and little standing devils in your kitchen are all intelligence peripherals, all movements retractable with software. This Bluetooth embedded technology has the ability to connect the dots. Earlier details will come to surface with proper usage. Condensing the time tasks are done. One bank robbery gone real bad ,chances are , LE could know better who all was in that bank for what reason.



Anonymous said...

They'll get that $50k one way or another (and more). Next...

Anonymous said...

This was a surprise. I am surprised but glad that three democrats voted for law and order. Myers, and Heckman have been around but the Zrinski vote was a pleasant surprise. Not surprised that Hefner and the other dems voted with Antifa and to defund law enforcement.

Was really shocked that Republicans voted with this bunch to defund the police and the DA in trying to fight crime. what happened to the Republicans being for law and order. That is really disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I am so sick of this war on law enforcement, especially since the police would be the first group called if these dolts needed help finding their way out of a paper bag while holding a lit match. Thank goodness Bernie covers this stuff because the general public hasn’t a clue what is happening since the local newspapers poorly report on local government dealings.

Anonymous said...

FTP but this has nothing to do with defunding the police yo!

Bernie O'Hare said...

2:31, The usually loquacious Zrinski was unusually laconic. She said nothing, and voted against the cut.

Anonymous said...

Annon 3:57,Not funny!!! yes you are when you deprive the DA of needed services by nickel and dimeing him with your stupidity. You hand out thousands and thousands in jobs and pay increases to political insiders and you cut this guys budget? What do you know about crime fighting. This was personal or just stupid. Hopefully sanity will prevail and he will get the money he needs to keep us safe. You just voted to support gangs and crime with your antifa.

You should get your asses whooped if you run for office. Shame on those who voted for this. Also Bernie has complained about this Heffner being a know it all in the past!

Anonymous said...

She complained that municipalities who take advantage of the RIIC make no contributions.
All residence in Northampton County pay county real estate taxes so they are contributing

Anonymous said...

Mr. O'Hare, is the official vote on this issue tonight? Can people comment and can council still make sure the DA gets the money he needs tonight?

Bernie O'Hare said...

3:30, yes. county council website will also have password to zoom meeting if you wish to comment.

Anonymous said...

Stupid is as stupid does. Great leadership in Norco.

Anonymous said...

Hey Northampton County !!! Elections have consequences ... Quit voting for these dumbasses !!!