Watch out, Shippensburg criminals: There are 2 police departments working together to catch you
By AMBER SOUTH
SHIPPENSBURG — Cooperation between Shippensburg borough police and Shippensburg University police has been highlighted recently with an unusual frequency of criminal events.
Shippensburg Police Chief Fred Scott commented on the subject this month at a Shippensburg Borough Council meeting mere days after a stabbing incident in which university police apprehended one of two suspects involved.
According to reports, the Nov. 6 incident began as a fight on East Fort Street around 12:30 p.m. The victim showed up at the borough police department with stab wounds to the back of his head and neck, but was able to give descriptions of the suspects. Soon after, university police caught one of them, 21-year-old Paul Rivers, near the crime scene by the intersection with Queen Street.
“They had the incident, they called us for assistance,” said SU Police Chief Cytha Grissom. “We actually found one of the perpetrators and took him into custody, transported him and what not.”
This scenario is a blueprint for what typically goes down in the borough police-university police dynamic.
Thanks to the police scanner mounted in their department, sometimes university police respond before borough police request it, Grissom said.
“If we have an incident of significance or need assistance they’re always there and we don’t have to call them, they hear it and they’re rollin’,” Scott said. “If they have something going on that we hear we back them up, but most of the time they’re there backing us up more than were backing them up.”
Scott is grateful for the assistance. For him, the most significant event in which university police became involved was an Oct. 15 stabbing on South Earl Street. In that incident, 21-year-old Christian Lee Paffos, Shippensburg, allegedly used a Leatherman knife to stab a victim in the chest, shoulder and arm.
“I was working by myself,” Scott said. “(SU police) came and I had nobody else and two of their officers came down and they caught the guy I was looking for because I couldn’t leave the scene.”
University police were responsible for apprehending the suspect in that incident as well, Scott added.
These stabbing incidents are just two of many in which both departments work together to ensure the Shippensburg area is safe. Because Shippensburg is a college town, incidents involving alcohol are the most prevalent; however, Grissom said that trend even fluctuates and that the campus has seen different problems as years go by. Scott added that crimes have become more violent, as evidenced by the recent stabbings.
“(University police) have had to help us wrestle people and get people under control and everything,” Scott said. “There’ve been so many, we have had many incidents but I guess the past couple have been the most violent that we’ve had.”
To make sure they are up to the same speed, the departments do much of their training together.
“Because if we do have to handle such an incident, we’re going to have to do it together because we’ll need the personnel, so we need to train together in order for that to work,” Grissom said.
According to Grissom, the departments do joint training on emergency scenarios such as an active shooting or bomb threat, as well as more mundane topics that keep them up to date in the modern world.
Scott feels university police also fill a void called isolation.
“Shippensburg, we’re the farthest south for Cumberland County and the farthest north for Franklin County. So you look around and we’re like an island,” Scott said.
Adding to this is a bit of a radio problem. According to Scott, radios used by his department are not compatible with those used by Pennsylvania State Police. He has requested to borough council that the problem be fixed by allotting money for new radios in the 2013 police budget, but for now nothing is changing.
“State police are there but we don’t have any communication with each other so there’s times where there could be a robbery across the street…and they’d never even know it but the university (police department) does,” Scott said. “So for officer safety (cooperation with university police is) a tremendous asset for us.”
For Scott, this is the most vital benefit of the partnership between his and Grissom’s departments.
“Having them there, it’s more officer safety than it is people safety,” Scott said. “It makes a big difference when you got two or three other officers.”
But with increased officer response comes increased safety for their constituents, Grissom believes.
“Having the two departments so closely aligned and in such cooperation with each other is only, can only work to enhance the safety of the community. There’s no other way around that,” she said.
Amber South can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 262-4771.