Norristown Patch readers this past weekend reported seeing increased police presence and even noting the participation of Pennsylvania State Troopers and what appear to be undercover units in a number of recent police responses in Norristown.
According to Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono, the show of force is all part of a new effort he has been working on with other county and state authorities.
"[We] call it the 'Aggressive Enforcement Unit,'" said Chief Bono.
Bono noted that the task force is made possible with "tremendous cooperation" from Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman, Montgomery County Sheriff Eileen Whalon Behr, the Montgomery County Detectives Unit, The Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET), Pennsylvania State Police and the Montgomery County Adult Probation and Parole Department. While they have not yet been involved, Chief Bono added that Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) may also be asked to participate.
While he declined to comment on the specific mission or parameters of the AEU, Chief Bono pointed out that the goal is very similar to that of the department's Bee Sting Unit which was discontinued in 2011 for lack of funding and manpower.
"I believe the loss of the Bee Sting Unit has been very detrimental to Norristown," said Chief Bono. "Because we no longer have the ability to conduct operations like we are doing now with this task force."
Chief Bono declined to go into specifics, but confirmed that arrests have already resulted from task force efforts.
"I think the results of the task force thus far, which have been very positive, demonstrate the need for Norristown to have a unit similar to the Bee Sting Unit," said Chief Bono.
The task force, a response to the recent increase in violent crime in Norristown, is being partially funded with money from a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), which is going towards overtime costs for Norristown officers. County and state law enforcement are bearing their own costs for the task force in an effort to aid the municipality.
The hope is that the increased law enforcement presence will eliminate the opportunity for would-be criminals to strike.
"My philosophy has always been, 'You can't stop someone from having a desire to commit a crime, but you can take away their opportunity,'" said Chief Bono. "We're trying to take away the opportunity for people to go out there and shoot up this town and kill people. The way you do that is by having a constant police presence. It works."
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