Burns: Johnstown should hire more police with $30.7 million in federal money

Surging crime is top resident concern, needs addressed ‘pronto’

EBENSBURG, May 19 – Based on frequent feedback from fearful residents as he recently canvassed Johnstown, state Rep. Frank Burns wants city officials to put enhanced police protection at the top of the list for spending $30.7 million in federal American Rescue Plan money.

“Johnstown was gifted with this huge pot of money, and I have yet to see any plan that includes hiring additional police,” Burns said. “That needs to change, pronto.”

Burns, D-Cambria, cited sobering statistics that show a person in Johnstown has a 1 in 62 chance of being a violent crime victim, compared to a 1 in 261 chance in all of Pennsylvania. He said most of the people he had discussions with verified how bad the crime has become and shared their worries.

“They are acutely aware that eight people have been shot and killed in Johnstown so far this year – and it’s only May,” Burns said. “They’ve seen on social media the video of a police officer being wrestled to the ground and injured by a fleeing suspect in a Sheetz parking lot. And they know violent crime is only going to surge this summer, unless we act now.”

Burns, who has always backed the police and shared his strong belief that the idea of defunding them was nonsense, said if even President Biden has come around to advocating use of this money to hire more police, Johnstown officials should take heed and follow suit.

“On behalf of the many people I talked to while going door-to-door, I implore the city’s decision-makers – whether they’re wearing the apparently interchangeable hats of elected official or nonprofit board member – to use this federal money to hire more police officers and provide them with the resources they need to keep our streets and people safe,” Burns said. 

“We have to be realistic: All the positive thinking and optimism doled out by civic leaders isn't going to stop criminals. We need boots on the ground. That needs to be priority No. 1."