Crime levels differ across the Lehigh Valley

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The Lehigh Valley is seeing mixed results when it comes to crime in 2017.

In Allentown, crime levels reached a record high since 2008, highlighted by a spree of homicides that occurred between August and November of that year, yet nationally, crime rates are declining, according to The Morning Call. 

As of publication, 2018 data is not publicly available.

The third most populous city in Pennsylvania, Allentown, has experienced a drastic increase in homicides and rapes, which are mostly due to gang-related violence. According to the article, homicides rose 70 percent from 2016 to 2017, and rapes increased 25 percent — even while armed robberies and nonfatal gun assaults went down.

In order to intercept these violent crimes before they occur, Allentown Police Chief Tony Alsleben said he is determined to keep residents and the city safe. Alsleben said the police force is using developmental technology as an analytical resource. The force also uses certain computer networks to be more predictive of suspicious activity and persons before they even commit a crime. 

“Officers are taking more ownership on what calls they respond to, and with more added manpower on the streets, especially during highest crime hours, we are able to keep people safer,” Alsleben said.

Bethlehem has decreased overall crime rates by about 4.2 percent over the past year. From 2017-2018, there has been roughly a 25 percent decrease in Part I criminal offenses, categorized as murder, rape, burglary and auto theft.

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio said that the decrease in crime is partly due to the fact that when the economy is doing better, crime relatively goes down.

“In Bethlehem, we have a community-oriented policing style,” DiLuzio said. “Lehigh police and Bethlehem police work together to maintain a visible presence in the community.”

DiLuzio said members of the community also help the police by providing them with tips. He said this makes it especially easier to catch burglars and career criminals. 

But for Lehigh students, crime has been an issue of late in South Bethlehlem, specifically burglaries, in off-campus student housing. Lehigh University Police Department Police Chief Jason Schiffer sent out an email on March 20 that urged students to be vigilant and take all necessary precautions to ensure their safety.

Schiffer said in the email LUPD and Bethlehem police are collaborating to investigate on “several burglaries that occurred in the homes of our students living off-campus,” citing at least one that took place over spring break.

Assistant Chief of Lehigh Police Christopher Houtz is urging students to not make themselves an easy target, and said LUPD tries to educate students to look after one another and store all valuables in safe locations.

“Most crimes that occur here are very opportunistic,” Houtz said. “Criminals are pinpointing vulnerable homes where doors are left unlocked and windows are opened.”

At least two incidents occurred on and around the time Lehigh students were on or had just returned from winter break: one on Jan. 28 on Polk Street and one on Jan. 17 on East Fifth Street.

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