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In an emergency, call, don't tweet or email police

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Sep 27 2013 07:20:57 AM CDT
Updated On: Sep 27 2013 07:21:27 AM CDT
Salisbury Twp. police car

Randy Kraft/69News

SALISBURY TWP., Pa. -

If you have an emergency in Salisbury Township, get help the old fashioned way: grab a phone and call the police.

But do not expect to hear the sirens coming to the rescue if you email or tweet the township police department or post a message for help on its Facebook page.

“We’re urging the public to pick up the phone and call 9-1-1 if it’s an emergency,” said Police Chief Allen Stiles. “Don’t try to send us a Twitter message or an e-mail or go on our Facebook page to let us know that.”

Like many police departments, Salisbury’s does not have enough people to monitor its social media sites 24/7 every day of the year, said the chief at Thursday night’s township commissioners meeting. “It’s just impossible.”

Explained Stiles: “If you want to report a potential crime, call our regular phone number 24 hours a day. When we’re not in our office, it goes to Lehigh County’s communications center immediately.”

He said that number is 610-797-1447. “But if it’s an emergency, just dial 9-1-1. Those calls go to Lehigh County and they will dispatch us immediately.”

“We’ve been getting a lot more activity on our Facebook page and more and more information through e-mails, Twitter and our department tip lines,” the chief told commissioners. “We are trying to keep up with the latest in electronic media, we are not equipped to be able to monitor all those things on a 24/7 basis – yet.”

He said much of that information is from people trying to report crimes and trying to get the police department to respond. “If you send us a text message or an e-mail we may not know about it until hours later. You want to still use the telephone and call.”

Stiles said one example of the problem is people saw a suspicious vehicle on a street, whose occupants appeared to be casing a house. “We need to look at that right away,” said Stiles. But rather than calling police, those people sent an e-mail. “We may not see that e-mail until the next morning.”

He explained police continue to accept tips, such as “when neighbors see something suspicious on an on-going basis, and we will deal with them as we can.”

But the chief said people also should not just send police emails after they become victims of crimes, such as a man who used email to report something had been stolen from his vehicle.

One of the police cars that may responding to emergency calls in Salisbury is a new 2013 Ford Police Interceptor, which Stiles showed off outside the township municipal building before the commissioners meeting began.

He said the police department was able to obtain a grant from Lehigh County, which uses revenue from gambling operations at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem.

“The gamblers paid for our car,” said Stiles. Fully equipped, he said it is worth $35,000.

The chief said the “stealth” car primarily will be used for traffic enforcement.

The black sedan intentionally does not look like a police car, to better trick and catch speeders. Its light bar is inside the windshield, rather than on the roof.

But it is not an unmarked car.

Black-on-black “Salisbury Township Police” lettering is on its doors, barely visible in daylight. Stiles explained the words stand out at night when other lights shine on the lettering.

“Once you’re stopped, you’ll be able to see that it is in fact a police vehicle,” said the chief.

“In other words, look out for the black vehicle,” said township manager Randy Soriano.

“We’ve tried to keep it as stealthy as possible so we can do lot more enforcement,” said the chief. “That’s why we bought it. If you see a black car, slow down.”

During the meeting, the five commissioners agreed to accept the withdrawal of a preliminary/final plan by St. Luke’s Hospital to create a rear access road between the hospital complex in Fountain Hill and Riverside Drive in Salisbury’s northeastern tip.

Township Engineer David Tettemer said to install that road, the hospital had to swap the locations of a section of Riverside Drive and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

“Norfolk Southern pretty much said no and that just killed the project,” said Tettemer. “They spent the last two years trying to negotiate with Norfolk Southern to get approval to do this. It was a nice idea. It would have been a real nice project when it was done.

Tettemer said Salisbury gave that plan approval three years ago.

“You can’t mess with Norfolk Southern,” said the engineer, who added the hospital finally just gave up.

Also during the meeting:

*Commissioners approved trick-or-treating from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 25 in the township. Soriano warned drivers to be extra careful that evening. He said safety tips for trick-or-treaters will be posted on the Salisbury Township website.

*Stiles announced that Salisbury High School’s football booster club is hosting a second annual car show 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 12 in the school’s parking lots. Registration begins at 9 a.m. Registration to show a vehicle costs $15 on show day, $12 to pre-register. “I think we’ll have a lot more cars this year,” said Stiles.

*Soriano announced the township is hiring Salisbury residents Frank DiMatteo and Matthew Peterson for the public works department, at hourly wages of $19.61. The men will go to work on Oct. 7.