A Lower Swatara Twp. man lost more than $29,000 in a scam involving computer security, township police said.
The unidentified man told police he received a telephone call on May 6 from the scammer who told him his computer had been hacked. The scammer offered to repair the computer if the victim would send funds via Western Union to addresses in China and Saudi Arabia to cover costs, police said.
The victim sent money, then discovered his computer was locked, police said. Several fraudulent withdrawals totaling more than $29,000 were then made from his checking account and a line of credit, police said.
The victim called the police after the scammer called again requesting an additional $1,000, police said.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 15:50
Written by Eric Wise
Middletown Police Chief John Bey knew coming in that the borough’s police department faced challenges. Last July, when he was interviewed for the chief’s job, Bey spoke about a need for a “180-degree turnaround” and “a change of culture” in the department.
“I understand that it is a beehive I would be coming into,’’ he told members of Middletown Borough Council in his interviews – and when he was hired, he was catapulted into the challenge.
Bey, a retired State Police captain and senior master sergeant in the Air Force Reserve, began his new job in October, and found himself in a sea of paperwork amid a department that was stretched thin and never had time to get itself properly organized after a move from its old headquarters at borough hall to its new headquarters on Emaus Street.
Bey approached council for permission to engage Transparency Matters, a consulting firm led by retired State Police Lt. Col. John “Rick” Brown, to conduct an independent audit of the department, and council agreed.
When Middletown’s officers heard about the study, “they were scared,” Bey said. Many officers, already stressed and stretched thin by vacant positions, said, “They want to get rid of us,” Bey said.
But when the Middletown officers met the former state troopers who conducted the study, they quickly built a rapport, and the borough cops cooperated, Bey said. Bey believes his force is ready for the improvements that have now been recommended in the completed study.
“I am hoping by this time next year, we will have addressed these issues,” Bey said. “We are slowly turning the ship, pointed in the right direction.”
The recommendations include significant changes, including the addition of a police lieutenant, improvement in the control of weapons and ammunition, organization of files and filing procedures and professional training for officers. These steps are needed if the borough wants to improve the department enough to earn professional accreditation, a standard achieved by police departments in nearby Swatara Twp. and Derry Twp., Bey said.
“It’s not doom and gloom,” Bey said. “We have a solid core of police officers.”
Council President Chris McNamara bemoaned the state of Middletown police as the report was unveiled on Wednesday, May 13 at a meeting of council’s public safety committee, which he chairs. He also made repeated references to the absence of Mayor James H. Curry III, who oversees the police department, at the committee meeting. “That’s what chaps me in the ass,” McNamara said. “He knew this was going on, and he’s not here.”
Curry balked at McNamara’s decision to schedule the meeting on May 13 to dissect the report, which members only received on May 5. Curry said McNamara ignored his requests to delay the meeting by a week or more, time that Curry said he and Bey needed to thoroughly review it.
“There’s no way I am reading a 90-page report in five days,” Curry said. “It deserves more time.” Bey declined to comment on the meeting.
Inside the report Brown found a host of problems in many areas detailed in the 49-page report and its 47 pages of attachments with new and updated “directives,” or standing orders for the police officers.
“Status quo is not an option for the [Middletown Police Department], nor does it seem to be the desired path of its chief, members or borough officials,” Brown wrote. “Positive change is needed, and therefore, its associated costs appear necessary.”
Bey asked for the independent assessment to review several areas of the department’s operations, something he said he could not handle himself while serving as chief. When Bey saw the report, he stressed it “absolutely” reflected the challenges he has faced since October. “I found the report to be accurate and objective,” he said.
One of the more expensive recommendations adds to the borough’s personnel costs for police, which already account for a big slice of the department’s budget: The report recommends the addition of a police lieutenant, a commissioned officer between the chief and the sergeants in the chain of command. The lieutenant would enable the department to address some of its administrative problems and the reform efforts, and would be an at-will employee, not a member of the police’s union.
Bey said he would seek a highly skilled person for this role, with a strong background in management and organizational skills. He said the candidate must be a “proven leader” with the proper years of police supervisory experience.
Curry and Bey both also support creating a full-time secretary for the department, expanding the part-time job. “I would love to have her here full-time,” Bey said. “It’s in the best interests of the police department and the public.”
Transparency Matters criticized Middletown for dragging out the process of filling the ranks of the force. The report suggested prioritizing hiring officers to a full staff in the future. Since 2013, the department lost manpower and clerical services, as positions went unfilled under the borough’s budget constraints. This led to more overtime for the existing officers and “associated job dissatisfaction,’’ the report states.
Officers also have had problems with their Glock handguns jamming during firing range practices, the report notes. Remington 870 shotguns and Bushmaster AR-15 rifles were dirty, and a few showed rust, the report noted. Bey said that the armory for the department has functional weapons despite the reported need for thorough cleaning or maintenance. Bey also said Middletown recently purchased shotguns that are used in routine patrol work, not the ones discussed in the report as dirty or rusty.
Middletown’s officers are not under any specific orders when it comes to the use of Tasers, which are electroshock weapons used to subdue a person if the need arises. “There’s no training, but they all have Tasers,” noted McNamara.
Training with a Taser should include the proper use and handling of a Taser, the medical treatment of a person struck with an electroshock, the gathering and processing of evidence and documentation of Taser use, the report suggests. Officers are required to complete a use of force report, but “this is not being accomplished or enforced,” the report noted.
In contrast, all State Police troopers must complete a certification to carry a Taser, and they must be rectified every year, said Trooper Adam Reed, the public information officer for the State Police. He said a supervisor must file a report about the use of force, including a Taser, by a trooper.
While Middletown’s officers have the ammunition they need for weapons used in typical patrol work, they may not be able to get what they need in an emergency.
Police Sgt. Richard Hiester, the department’s firearms instructor and armorer, maintained the only key to the armory that could be found during the assessment, which meant Middletown officers could not return to the station and restock their ammunition in an emergency unless Hiester was on duty and present at the time. Additionally, assessors said the armory itself is in “disarray” and “supplemental ammo was stored in a flimsy cabinet outside the secured armory.”
Transparency Matters also took issue with the department’s record-keeping and organization. Assessors found files in various rooms of the police building that were repeatedly described as having “no semblance of order.” In other areas, packs of citation blanks were not kept securely and paid parking tickets were found “splayed across a desk.”
Bey said the files were transferred from the old station and were personal files officers kept for themselves – not the departmental investigative files kept electronically. At this point, these disorganized paper files have not been addressed, Bey said.
Other files, including investigative reports, may receive inadequate attention, the report said. Bey said he would like to implement a system where supervisors have adequate time to review reports to make sure they are completed and officers follow-up as needed in a timely manner.
The police headquarters building itself has some shortcomings, the report notes. The borough remodeled the building, formerly a car dealership, for the police, but some issues remain. Bey said one of the challenges was the omission of a locker room for women. The department has made arrangements for its recently hired female officer, Curry said.
“It’s a nice facility,” Bey said. “I don’t think this building was constructed with police department in mind.”
Many of the problems Transparency Matters identified result from a lack of training and oversight, Brown said. “There was a glaring lack of administrative infrastructure,” he said when discussing the report with the public safety committee.
The operations of a department are dependent on keeping policies consistent and clear, Brown said. With officers confused by old and new directives and lacking in regular training, the department places the borough at risk for lawsuits.
Juvenile matters, departmental organization and missing persons are among many of the areas in which Transparency Matters found department policies deficient or missing. Brown said that any incoming chief would face a substantial problem of developing and implementing an entire set of policies when inheriting a department with gaping holes in its written blueprint of operations.
Bey said former Police Chief Steven Wheeler had recently updated a policy manual to cover many issues for day-to-day police activities. “The policy manual just needs to be tweaked for Middletown,” he said.
“Failure to enact a strong directive system that delineates clear and unambiguous standards is a fundamental failing for any organization, particularly a paramilitary organization such a police department,” Brown said in the report. “Without standards, or with weak standards, an agency abdicates its need and right to expect specific behavior and actions from its employees. It also exposes the organization and its personnel to civil and criminal liability. As important, the agency’s employees lack the written guidance to perform at an exceptional level.”
Bey said he would like to form an advisory group to meet with the police, a group that reflects the diversity of Middletown’s residents and business community. The borough’s new Web site, which debuted last month, includes links to a “complaint statement form” regarding any citizen’s report about an officer acting inappropriately, but that link is broken and leads to no such form.
Committee discusses report McNamara, who named himself to take over as chairman of the public safety committee earlier this year, said he did not blame officers themselves for the problems in the report. But now that he has the report, McNamara said he intends to use it as a “boot in the ass” for officers, who were failed by former borough councils and former Mayor Robert Reid.
“They were footloose and fancy free,” McNamara said of the officers. While he faulted their behavior he said it’s unfair to blame officers who were not managed.
“My predecessors did nothing, “ he said.
McNamara and fellow Councilor Robert Louer, who also serves on the committee, stressed the department history that led to the problems. “You don’t have any idea what we went through as a council to get police in the shape they are in now,” Louer told Brown at the meeting. He credited Wheeler, who served one year before resigning, and Bey for their work. “With this new mayor, we still don’t have management,” Louer said.
Curry said council votes on the police department’s budget, but council is not involved in its management. “Chief Bey is the day-to-day supervisor,” he said. “I am there for bigger issues.” Curry holds monthly meetings at the police department where he discusses many issues with the force.
“I am pleased with the progress under Chief Bey,” Curry said. “We are doing our best to professionalize the force.” Curry said this year, police have increased foot patrols and are working toward re-starting a bike patrol. Curry said he has yet to closely examine the report in its entirety and will meet with Bey after they have both had an opportunity for careful review.
Curry balked at notions of a need for his closer management of the police. “Day-to-day micromanagement is destructive,” he said. “It’s poison to everyone.”
Councilor John Brubaker, who is also a committee member, said he expects hearty resistance to reform and improvement from the department’s officers. “They will fight all changes you suggested,” he said. “They fight everything.”
“They claim they are covered under the collective bargaining agreement for everything,” Brubaker said, suggesting that the union will step in to prevent new policies. He cited what he said were ongoing problems in the department, including unchecked heavy absenteeism with abuses of overtime and sick leave.
McNamara promised to present the report to the all members of council and push for prioritization of implementing needed changes. Council is scheduled to meet next on June 1.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 15:43
Written by Dan Miller
The Middletown Area School Board voted 5-0 on Monday, May 18 to give preliminary approval to a $41.9 million budget that includes a 1.6 percent increase in the real-estate tax.
The change would mean an increase of $35.30 a year in the property tax bill for a residence in the school district with an assessed value of $100,000, said David Franklin, assistant superintendent for finance and operations.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 15:38
Written by Dan Miller
On the wall of Glenn Graham’s room in the Middletown Home are pictures that portray his family’s proud tradition of military service.
At the top in the center is Graham’s father, James Perley, who served in the Canadian Army in World War I. Graham’s mother and father were Canadian and came to the U.S. from Nova Scotia.
In the middle are Graham’s three brothers. Walter served in the Navy in World War II. Lynn was in the Coast Guard. Graham’s youngest brother, Donald, the only one still living besides Glenn, served in the Air Force stateside shortly after World War II.
Graham, the grand marshall for Middletown’s Memorial Day parade on Monday, May 25, grew up in western Massachusetts. He first stepped up in 1946, when he and a buddy signed up for the 82nd Airborne.
“There was nothing else to do for a 17-year old kid,” Graham said. His enlistment ended and he got out in 1948.
“I got sick of hanging around” and at age 22 he again enlisted in the Army in 1952, despite the war going on in Korea.
He was supposed to be airborne but someone with the Army got things mixed up, and Graham ended up in the Signal Corps.
He served with the 7th Infantry Division in the war.
“They took a beating” in Korea, Graham said. His job was to maintain the field telephone lines that the units depended upon to communicate with each other. The lines were in constant need of repair, either from accidental breaks or from being cut by the enemy.
Graham was in the Korean War for a little over a year. He then was sent back to the Airborne in Japan for nine months of garrison duty.
He remembers doing about six or seven jumps.
He came home in 1954 and embarked on a career as a truck driver. He got hurt in New Jersey, where he met his wife, Mildred Kinsey, who was a nurse and originally from Middletown. That’s how Graham ended up here.
“At first I thought I’d stay about a week. It’s been 47 years now,” Graham said. Mildred died six years ago.
Like a lot of older veterans, Graham doesn’t talk much about himself publicly. Middletown VFW Post 1620 Commander John Stutzman helps to fill in the blanks.
Graham has served 11 different stints as the commander of Post 1620, Stutzman said. But what is most impressive is the service Graham rendered to his own family, Stutzman said.
Glenn and Mildred raised their grandchild, then raised that grandchild’s three children.
“Glenn is a good man,’’ Stutzman said. “What he went through and the sacrifices he made for those kids…I tip my hat to him all the time.”
Stanton “Mo’’ Garber Sr.
As Stanton “Mo” Garber Sr. puts it, World War II was “a long time ago.”
It ended 70 years ago, in fact.
But it’s not hard to pick Garber out in a crowd as a World War II veteran. His hat adorned with various Navy and military insignia gives him away.
Garber grew up in Middletown. He was one of six boys. Stanton and four of his brothers all served in World War II. The fifth brother, Bobby, stayed home with the rest of the family – including five daughters – but joined the military as soon as Stanton and his brothers came home.
Garber joined up in 1943. He was only 16.
“I couldn’t wait because the war was on. I was ineligible because I wasn’t 17,” Garber said. “I lied to get overseas, like a lot of them did.”
He was a seaman First Class. He was on ships, and did a little bit of everything.
He first served in the Pacific, supporting the Marines in the war effort against Japan.
“I came home after about a year and a half. No sooner did I get home for a week or about a month’s vacation, when they sent me over to Germany” to help fight the Nazis, he said.
In one amazing coincidence, Garber and two of his brothers ran into each other one day in Germany. They didn’t even have time to get a beer together before the military again sent them on their separate ways.
All the Garber brothers came home safely.
“We were very, very fortunate,” Garber said.
He married his wife, Fern, and started working at Olmsted Air Force Base as a messenger. He stayed at Olmsted for 32 years. Fern died in 1992. Today, Garber lives at the Middletown Home.
MEMORIAL DAY PARADES
When: 9 a.m. on Monday, May 25 Route: The parade begins along the Municipal Building and the MCSO on Emaus Street and proceeds south under the Wood Street underpass to Ann Street, then turns left on Ann Street, left onto South Union Street and north to the Middletown Cemetery, where a ceremony will begin at 10 a.m.
When: 10 a.m. on Monday, May 25 Route: The parade begins on West High Street and ends with services at Hummelstown Cemetery. A pre-parade service will start at 8:30 a.m. Monday at Zion Lutheran Cemetery, 8:45 a.m. at Stoverdale United Methodist Church Cemetery and 9 a.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 May 2015 00:19
As part of Penn State President Eric Barron's INVENT Penn State initiative, Penn State Harrisburg has been awarded $50,000 in seed funding to help the college develop the Center for the Next Step, which will enhance entrepreneurial environments and encourage students, faculty and community members to transform their intellectual property and creative works for local businesses, industries and communities.
The Center will assist individuals in the concept of commercialization of intellectual capital within the college community and foster local economic development. It will also help address impediments to successful start-ups, such as potential business owners’ lack of skills and start-up financing, by providing a tool set for entrepreneurs-in-training.
“Penn State Harrisburg has always strived to be a leader in innovative and creative research,” Penn State Harrisburg Chancellor Mukund Kulkarni said. “With our expanding portfolio of industry-sponsored undergraduate capstone projects and our increasing number of faculty produced creative, scholarly and scientific works, we have seen many great ideas. There is an emerging need to nurture ideas beyond the initial first step. The Center for the Next Step is a logical evolution of our research efforts and ongoing outreach within the capital region.
“I am very pleased that the University has also recognized a need for this Center and selected this project as a funding recipient. This is a major first step to the creation of this Center that will join the college and community together in advancing their ideas into concepts beyond the University walls and into everyday use.”
The Center will leverage the college’s expertise to expand new business development for external and internal communities and provide entrepreneurial resources for faculty, students, and the community to explore innovation to develop educational, research and business products. New resources for these users will include a technology-based depository of resources for entrepreneurs, corporate and venture interactions and brainstorming sessions, and custom entrepreneurial outreach programs.
“The Center is intended to motivate faculty and students to think about the economic relevance of their creative ideas and to envision themselves as successful entrepreneurs,” Kulkarni said. “The region will benefit from new start-up activities. Businesses and other local organizations will benefit from trained graduates familiar with transforming ideas into practical applications. The Center will also strengthen Penn State Harrisburg’s outreach efforts with area businesses, industries and communities, and attract smart and ambitious students as these efforts become successful.”
Penn State Harrisburg was one of six Commonwealth campuses to submit winning proposals, including Abington, Erie, Lehigh Valley, New Kensington and Wilkes-Barre.
In January 2015, President Barron announced a new initiative for the University—one focused on leveraging Penn State’s research, knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit to bring to market needed ideas, products, and services. Called “INVENT Penn State,” the initiative is a collaboration, one in which students, faculty and campuses work with businesses and communities across the Commonwealth to improve the lives of Pennsylvanians and, ultimately, the people of the world.
Barron has committed $30 million to putting into place the organization and people to guide and support its partners along their entrepreneurial pathways: working with students to encourage ideation, then helping them to kick-start those ideas into promising new companies; collaborating with communities and corporations, making available Penn State’s massive intellectual resources; partnering with alumni to mentor students, shepherd fledgling businesses and invest in promising, innovative start-ups.
Last Updated on Monday, 18 May 2015 16:23