Washington police arrest, citation numbers up

Washington police arrest and citation numbers are up

January 17, 2013
Washington police Chief Robert Lemons

If you were arrested or cited by Washington police in 2012, you are not alone.

City police Chief Robert Lemons Jr., who just completed his first year as head of the department, told City Council last week that the numbers were up across the board.

Police issued 1,843 traffic citations, up 727 from 2011, and wrote 646 nontraffic citations, an increase of 123 over last year. Nontraffic citations are given in summary offenses, such as public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, harassment or even code violations.

City police officers and members of the detective unit made 672 arrests for crimes ranging from theft and assault to homicide, up 125 from 2011.

Lemons said three people were murdered in the city in 2011 with arrests made in two of the homicides.

“One crime you can’t predict are homicides,” Lemons said, “We had a good clearance rate.”

Henry Dion Williams, 29, of Pittsburgh, is awaiting trial in the May 24 shooting death of 23-year-old Rensfield Donald Jarvis on the street near a Ewing Street bar. Jarvis had recently moved to Washington from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Brandon D. Thomas, 30, of Upper St. Clair, will stand trial in the shooting death of Vaughn Simonelli, 55, of Chartiers Township. The Oct. 18 shooting, in the parking lot near Shop ’n’ Save, was apparently the result of road rage stemming from an incident between the two men on Jefferson Avenue.

Lemons said detectives continue to work daily on the unsolved murder of Timothy McNerney. The 21-year-old Washington & Jefferson College senior and standout running back on the football team died of a blow to the head Oct. 4 after leaving a South Main Street bar.

He was walking with friends when they were confronted near South College and East Maiden streets. They ran, but when he didn’t return to his dormitory room, his friends found him unresponsive on the sidewalk near where the confrontation took place. He died a short time later.

“The investigation has been a long road,” Lemons said. “They are following every tip and looking at every angle.”

City police officers focus on patrolling the neighborhoods, both on foot and in the cruisers.

“They are out there, meeting the residents who are getting to know the officers,” Lemons said. “That is a huge factor in solving crimes. Plus, I usually have the same officer patrolling the same neighborhood.”

Lemons said last week that assistance from West End residents was instrumental in police making a quick arrest of 18-year-old Brandon Wolowski in the Jan. 8 shooting that killed Matthew Mathias and seriously injured Michelle Powell.

Lemons said officers attend neighborhood crime watch meetings. There are currently three active groups in the city with some residents showing interest in starting crime watch programs in their neighborhood.

City police will continue working with day care centers in providing safety information, such as on safety seats. They also meet monthly with the Washington County Housing Authority, discussing any problem addresses in the three housing projects located in the city.

City police also will continue to look out for trucks with safety or weight violations. Lemons said the department is seeking funding for portable scales.

Police also will continue to participate in the aggressive driver grant program. Lemons said that most of the traffic citations are issued by officers who see an offense take place, although a violation like illegally passing a school bus can be given on information received from the bus driver.

At the beginning of the year, city patrol officers joined other area departments and started working 12-hour shifts. Officers work with 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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