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Lower Swatara budget freezes property tax

Taxpayers will not face a tax increase in Lower Swatara Twp. under a preliminary 2015 budget approved by the township commissioners on Wednesday, Nov. 5.

The commissioners developed the spending plan, which increases spending by 4.8 percent to a total $5,395,500 for 2015.

The proposed budget is available for anyone to review at the township office before a final vote on the plan, which is scheduled for Dec. 17.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 21:40

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In Lower Swatara, thieves find guns in unlocked cars


A Lower Swatara Twp. resident reported a $300 semiautomatic handgun missing after it was left in a car with the doors unlocked, windows down and keys in the ignition, according to Police Chief Richard Brandt.

“I can’t remember the last time someone actually broke in a car,” Brandt said, admitting that it does happen – just not nearly as often as thieves helping themselves to items in unlocked cars.

When police questioned suspects in prior thefts from cars, the suspects admit that they check cars for unlocked doors, Brandt said. Two thieves took handguns in October among a rash of thefts from cars, all of which were unlocked, in the township.

“If people would lock their cars, they wouldn’t go in them,” Brandt said.

While there have been thefts reported in many areas of the township, Rosedale and Shope Gardens appear to be particular targets, Brandt said.

Thefts were more frequently reported in September and October, he said.

Another resident reported a Glock .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol valued at $600 and ammunition were stolen July 31 from a locked car on Lexington Avenue in the township.

Last year, police recovered five handguns stolen from unlocked cars in Lower Swatara within a week of the thefts. In those incidents, three 16-year-old boys were charged with taking the five guns. They found the guns by checking for unlocked cars, police said.

In addition to thefts from vehicles, residents have reported multiple bicycle thefts recently, Brandt said. In one case, two bikes were taken, but police recovered them and made an arrest almost immediately. 

Eric Wise: 717-944-4628, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 21:38

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Council OKs purchase of Handley home

Middletown Borough Council voted 5-3 on Monday, Nov. 17 to allow the borough’s economic development authority to spend $150,000 plus closing costs to acquire the home of Councilor Tom Handley at 128 W. Emaus St.

The Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority has said that Handley’s house is among several properties the authority wants to acquire and demolish to clear the way for extending Emaus Street to West Main Street.

Council President Christopher McNamara said that “everything on the south side of [West] Emaus to Wood [Street]” has been targeted by the authority for acquisition.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 21:32

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Student charged after bomb threat at MAHS

A 16-year-old Middletown boy was arrested by Lower Swatara Twp. police on Thursday, Nov. 6 and charged with sending an e-mail threatening to detonate a bomb at Middletown Area High School.

 

The juvenile, a student at the school, allegedly sent the e-mail to a high school administrator shortly before the dismissal of classes on Wednesday, Nov. 5, police said. The e-mail warned of a bomb threat that was to have occurred at the high school during the week of Nov. 10-14.

 

The e-mail was sent on a school computer using an account that had just been created, according to Lower Swatara police.

 

The boy, who was not named because he is a juvenile, faces four felony charges, said Lower Swatara Twp. Detective Robert Appleby.

 

The charges are: threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction, terroristic threats, risking catastrophe and criminal use of a communication facility. The last charge refers to the use of any type of electronic device such as a computer or a cell phone in the process of committing a crime, Appleby said.

 

The youth was taken to a juvenile detention center and will face the charges in Dauphin County Juvenile Court, Appleby said.

 

The boy confessed to sending the e-mail, police said.

 

“It was a prank. His goal was to get out of some school,” Appleby said.

 

The Middletown Area School District on Wednesday sent an e-mail that was to have gone to parents of children who attend each of the district’s five schools, not just the high school, about the threat, said district spokeswoman Jody Zorbaugh.

 

That police were able to identify and charge the boy within 24 hours of him allegedly sending the e-mail is in large part credit to the good working relationship that Lower Swatara police have with high school and district administrators, Appleby said. That relationship includes a township police officer who is assigned fulltime to Middletown as the district’s student resource officer.

 

While police now know that the e-mail was a hoax, they could not take that chance while they were investigating, Appleby said.

 

“When we get a threat like that, there is never a time when you can say it’s just another hoax. You always take it as a real threat,’’ he said. “You just never know.’’

 

“It took priority” over everything else, Appleby said. “We worked on it steadily from the time we got it.”

 

Part of the investigation involved getting information from companies that provide Internet services. When a threat is imminent – and this qualified, Appleby said – the process gets put on a much faster track.

 

“I can’t wait two weeks for information to come back and a bomb does something and people die,” Appleby said.

 

The charges against the youth are serious, although Appleby would not speculate on what type of punishment the boy could receive.

 

“Doing something like that goes above and beyond [a prank]. It’s a serious threat to people’s lives and it takes police away” from pursuing anything else, he said.  “When you do something like a bomb threat, you cause panic, you cause fear, you cause terror.’’

 

Fortunately, these kinds of bomb threats involving schools have been rare, at least during Appleby’s tenure. He said this is only about the third such threat he has investigated in his nearly 10 years as a detective.

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 November 2014 21:39

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Authority votes to purchase councilor’s house

 

handleyhousepic11 12 14Press and Journal Photo by Dan Miller -- Middletown Councilor Tom Handley’s house would be purchased by the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority and razed to extend Emaus Street.

 

The Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority voted unanimously on Wednesday, Nov. 5 to acquire the Emaus Street house and property owned by Middletown Borough Councilor Tom Handley.

 

(Correction--The article in The Press and Journal print newspaper and in our e-version is incorrect regarding the ward that Handley now lives in and represents in Middletown. Handley currently lives in and represents the First Ward)

 

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 November 2014 19:48

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