Mayor's Report: National Police Week

Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle mayor

So, it’s another rainy Sunday afternoon. Mother’s Day 2021! Greetings to all the Moms and the wonderful things you do. Join me for a few minutes for this family room chat.

Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1907 at a church in Grafton, West Virginia, as a service of worship. I certainly have many fond memories of my late Mother (Mom). She grew up as a farm girl during the great Depression and graduated from high school during WWII, seeing brothers go off to military service. Her Dad died when Mom was an infant so Grand-ma raised the entire family on the farm. What a life. Mom raised a bunch of boys and became a big baseball fan. Thanks, Mom, for what you taught us and the many memories. This past Saturday morning, D.J. Holly Z from our local radio station, played song tributes to Mother’s Day. One was narrated in 1976 by Jimmy Dean (yep, the sausage breakfast guy) named "I.O.U." Listen to it. What a great tribute to Moms. 

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

This is National Police Week (May 9 through 15), though national events are postponed until October due to COVID. A national candlelight vigil will be held Oct. 14 in Washington, D.C., for those who lost their lives in performance of their duties. Many officers died in 2020 and 2021 from COVID-19. 

You probably know that I enjoy reading history. Our Greencastle police officers provide public safety service 24 hours a day seven days a week. I began my law enforcement career 44 years ago and oh, have I observed changes.

Greencastle Council minutes of 1887 stated that "A policeman was employed, assisted by a high constable and county sheriff. Criminal activities included larcenies, assaults, riots, disorderly conduct."

A "lock up" was on South Jefferson Street (before the RR highline came to Greencastle) constructed in approximately 1875, consisting of a square brick building with an iron door. Prisoners would be held there until sentence was pronounced by a local justice of the peace then released or taken to the county jail. Council minutes from March 1900 read "High constable reported 175 tramps in the lock up this year, 3/4 of time coal was burned there (for heat)."

The lock up was removed in 1905 to make way for the RR highline. That same year, Greencastle requested assistance from Hagerstown police due to the Saturday night "disorderly conduct and riots" that were regularly occurring. The was denied as Hagerstown was having similar issues. Citizens presented a petition to council and council approved the construction of two new lock ups in 1907 in the northwest corner of the first floor of council hall. Constructed by contractor Jacob Shank for $167, included were faucets, toilets and bunks. I remember them well. They were utilized until the 1982 police department renovations, where they were removed for insurance purposes. Those two lock ups were well used due to the number of downtown bars and those that came to town to consume their fire water with the subsequent consequences. The current lock up uses the same front steel door and grid system that was recycled from one of the original 1907 lockups.

On the Job: Suspect in murder of Waynesboro man in Hagerstown arrested in Greencastle

In the Community: Greencastle police hold 10 Most Wanted food drive

As of the end of April, Greencastle officers have logged 1,232 calls for service. Oftentimes incidents begin outside of Greencastle and end up here. Greencastle is the hub of the region, providing many services to our citizens. Our entire school campus is in Greencastle, where police services are provided, assisting the school resource officer. Services are provided over the midnight hours, weekends, and holidays in all weather conditions. All officers are graduates from certified Pennsylvania police academies and are required annually to successfully complete mandatory updates as required by the Pa. Municipal Police Education and Training Commission. Several are certified emergency medical technicians. As Pennsylvania is a commonwealth, there are 1,059 municipal police departments in the state.

Though municipal police are not permitted to use radar for issuance of traffic citations, Greencastle PD is using a radar monitoring system that you may have observed on our streets. The system is a driver education tool that can also be used for traffic studies to assist our public works department. Last week, officers issued a search warrant that resulted in drug arrests. A stolen car was recovered with charges initiated for a wanted felon. Weapons charges were also initiated following retail theft (shoplifting) investigations. The department is busy. We are not immune from crime. Most criminal activities occur due to drug or alcohol abuse addictions. I encourage our citizens to lock your cars and your outbuildings. This is the time when thieves in the night are looking for anything of value to support their illegal habits.

I close with this National Police Week message. Please thank those who protect us and, yes, put their lives on the line for our safety. I certainly count my blessings and am grateful that God had my six as a police officer. Our staff is dedicated in service to you and for that, I am most appreciative. Thank you, members of the Greencastle, Pennsylvania Police Department for your service. We are blessed.