W P police dealing w ith robberies in flood areas.pdf by yan198555

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									By Jack Smiles jsmiles@psdispatch.com
Times Leader Staff Writer

Chief Porfirio: ’We suspect these are drug users looking for quick cash.’

In the early morning hours of January 6, four flooded homes in West Pittston were broken into.

Three were in the same neighborhood at 22 Philadelphia Avenue and 1200 and 1202
Susquehanna Avenue.

The fourth robbery was across town at 101 York Avenue. Another break-in was reported
Monday.

These crimes are just the latest in a rash of robberies of flooded homes since September in West
Pittston.

Mayor Tony Denisco said the police department was called to investigate 12 to 15 robberies in
flooded areas since the September flood. In two of those cases arrests have been made.

In response, the borough has two patrols on the streets 24/7 except for a couple shift crossover
hours.

Still with over 800 homes flooded in an area covering almost one-third of the borough, the police
can’t be everywhere. “We’re trying to run doubles. We’re doing the best we can,” Denisco said.

The night after the latest robberies police got some unexpected help from three members of the
Wilkes-Barre chapter of the Guardian Angels.

Scott Koppenhofer, of the Wilkes-Barre Guardian Angels, said he and two chapter members
patrolled in the flooded areas.

Denisco and Chief of Police Paul Porfirio were not aware the Guardian Angels were in town
until informed by a reporter and they were not happy that they weren’t given advance notice.
“Under the right circumstances,” Porfirio said of the Angels, “we’d have no problem. The more
eyes the better. But we don’t know who these people are. For them to just show up is not proper
protocol. They have to coordinate their efforts. They should have come to the borough building.”

Denisco agreed. “I’m glad they took the initiative, but I wish they would have said something.
I’m only a phone call away.”

Koppenhofer admitted he didn’t check with the police before patrolling in West Pittston.
“Typically as a courtesy we do communicate with the local police,” he said, “but in this case it
was a spur of the moment decision to go to West Pittston. We can’t always plan in advance. We
have restrictions, people with jobs. We had three that night so we decided to go.”

Koppenhofer said he did chat with police who were on patrol. “They stopped when they saw us
on Susquehanna Avenue. We chatted. They asked how everything was going. It didn’t seem to
be an issue.”

Koppenhofer said the Guardian Angels do not carry weapons or confront suspects.

“If something happens,” he said, “we have cell phones and radios.”

Even at that Porfirio was angry that he or Denisco weren’t given a heads up.

“Right now we don’t trust anybody,” he said. “We’ve had subcontractors, family involved in
these robberies. I have to know who these people are. Anyone can put on a beret.”

Members of the Alliance of Guardian Angels – which has 141 chapters – are recognizable by
their red berets.

The group was founded by Curtis Sliwa in 1979 in New York City.

Guardian Angels aside, Porfirio said the burglaries in the flooded homes are difficult to prevent.

“Right now we’re easy pickings,” he said. “We suspect these are drug users looking for quick
cash. They are taking small items, precious medals, jewelry, not TVs. How easy is it for them to
pick out a center house in a dark block? Forced entry and they go right upstairs. We’re doing our
best, but the only thing that is going to fix this is people getting back in their homes so neighbors
can watch out for each other.”

Porfirio – whose own home was flooded and was uninhabitable for seven weeks – said he and
his officers are not dispassionate toward the robbery victims.

“Half our officers were in the flood. This is personal for us,” he said. “We all feel it. There’s not
a member of the force that’s not frustrated. And we have the 75 percent of the town that wasn’t
flooded. They want to see patrols in their neighborhood too.”
Another source of frustration for Porfirio and the police is messages about suspicious activity left
on the police voice mail.

“If you see something suspicious call 911,” he said. “We don’t have a dispatcher here. Our guys
are out on patrol, they might not get their messages for three four hours.”

								
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