The business community would put up hundreds of thousands of dollars in matching money to allow the city and county to secure grants to pay for crime-fighting technology, according to Ellen T. Horan, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Horan said she explored ways that businesses could help police in Berks County following a Feb. 21 visit to the area by leaders of a business-fueled crime-fighting program in Altoona, Blair County. She met with city Police Chief William M. Heim, District Attorney John T. Adams and others.
Reviewing the Blair County initiative was one of five strategy points that emerged from a Jan. 18 crime summit.
"I like this idea of the business community focusing in on the technology," Horan said. "We are talking about probably a couple of hundred thousand dollars that could put us in a much better position."
Two specific financial needs Horan identified in her conversations were help with purchasing National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, or NIBIN, technology, and upgrades to hardware and software in police cruisers.
NIBIN is a ballistics-tracing system that helps in the investigation of gun crimes. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has the technology, but it has been less accessible to police in Berks since the bureau reduced the number of offices it maintains in Pennsylvania.
Beyond that, Horan said she wants to stay abreast of efforts to improve communications among state, city and county police, which was part of the agenda for Monday's public meeting in City Hall.
"It has to start with talking more," she said.
Horan supported Adams' interest in using an Altoona idea to better involve Reading and Berks residents in fighting crime. Signs that say "Push out the Pusher" and show a hotline telephone number have been posted at businesses and residences around Altoona.
Horan said similar signs would be a plus in Reading.
"Community engagement, particularly in downtown Reading, is crucial," Horan said.
In Altoona, business assistance to police runs through a nonprofit, Operation Our Town. Horan said she does not think Berks needs to form a new nonprofit.
"The strategies that I am laying out can be accomplished in the organizational infrastructure we already have in this community," she said.
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