EBENSBURG, PA – With National Crime Victims’ Rights Week as the backdrop, the Senate Majority Policy Committee today kicked off a series of hearings on crime and public safety, gathering at the Cambria County Courthouse to get input from police, prosecutors, judges, and key community groups.
Pennsylvania has the highest violent crime rate of any state in the Northeast, according to FBI data. Between 2019 and 2020, no other state reported a greater year-over-year increase in violence. Driven by spikes in aggravated assault and homicide, Pennsylvania’s violent crime rate climbed 27.1% from 2019 to 2020.
“The Senate Majority Policy Committee will hold several public hearings on crime and public safety across the Commonwealth as data shows that crime has been on the rise in Pennsylvania, and we want to better understand why,” said Sen. Mario Scavello (R-40) who chairs the committee.
“I spent many years walking the halls of this courthouse as an Assistant District Attorney, and I’m deeply concerned about the sharp rise in crime, particularly violent crime, in our region and across Pennsylvania,” said Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-35), who hosted the hearing. “We are here to identify what is needed to turn the tide and what we can do to help police ensure the safety of citizens.”
Cambria County District Attorney Gregory Neugebauer told the committee it’s gotten more difficult for communities to attract and keep police officers.
Richland Township Police Chief Michael Burgan said that the influx of heroin and fentanyl are fueling a rise in ancillary offenses, such as property crimes, robbery and retail theft.
Cambria County President Judge Norman Krumenacker said DUI crimes are a major problem and was made more challenging by a 2021 state Supreme Court ruling on DUI sentencing.
Maribeth Schaffer, Cambria County Chief Public Defender focused on the need for mental health services.
A top priority for Senate Republicans is to ensure Pennsylvanians feel safe in the towns, cities and communities they call home. These hearings will help legislators better understand the trends in crime from law enforcement and key stakeholders, and better match the Commonwealth’s economic goals with community objectives throughout Pennsylvania.
The committee’s next hearing on crime and public safety will be held in Lancaster County in early May.
Video of today’s hearing can be viewed here.