Several factors led to no slayings in Coatesville in 2013

Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer is credited with increasing patrols.
Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer is credited with increasing patrols. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: January 05, 2014

COATESVILLE Coatesville, long considered the hotbed of crime in Chester County, went without a homicide in 2013 after seeing six, including three in 10 days, the previous year.

Law enforcement officials are attributing the drop to an intense targeting of high-risk criminals and to factors outside their control - such as the weather.

"You don't know which one of those was the silver bullet that really caused this drop," Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said Thursday. "So your only real choice for law enforcement is to keep all of them up for as long as you can."

What happened in Coatesville mirrored trends in much larger cities across the country. Philadelphia had 247 killings last year, a 25 percent drop from 2012. In New York and Chicago, the fewest homicides were recorded since 1963 and 1965, respectively.

Chester County had five killings, down from 10 in 2012, though officials said some were in communities that had not seen a homicide in years.

Hogan and Coatesville Police Chief Jack Laufer, who will mark his one-year anniversary on the job this month, are slow to hand out praise for the city's drop in homicides, saying crime can fluctuate without their control.

While six slayings in 2012 was the highest in recent memory, Coatesville had none in 2009 and just one in 2011, Laufer said.

Still, both men pointed to Operation Silent Night, a focused takedown of high-risk criminals, as a means of keeping violent crime at bay. More than 40 people, many of whom Coatesville police said were among the most likely to be involved in homicides, were arrested during the operation, which began in 2012.

"We repeatedly took out some of the guys - and sent them away for a long time on drug and weapons charges - who otherwise would have been involved in homicides," Hogan said.

Operation Silent Night "morphed into a different operation" about six months ago, he said, but he declined to elaborate.

Laufer, who is leading a department that spent most of 2012 without a permanent chief, deserves credit for increasing patrols and targeting problem areas, Hogan said.

Laufer said the force still has just 26 full-time officers, down from a peak of 35 about a decade ago. But he hired nine part-time officers last year and focused them on controlling street-level crime.

"Most of the homicides in 2012 we could directly attribute back to the drug trade," he said. "So, if you focus on the drug trade, then you're going to have an impact on your drug-related homicides."

An unseasonably cold spring and fall also played a part by keeping dangerous criminals indoors, Hogan said, and giving them "less chance to run into each other and cause those clashes."

While Coatesville was without a homicide last year, Malvern had its first since 1996, police said. In November, 24-year-old Merritt Neil Dudas was charged with shooting friend Drew Alan Ferguson and stuffing his body into a sleeping bag in his garage.

Hogan said homicides also are rare in North Coventry Township, where officials say 17-year-old Kevin Calvin Allen was stabbed more than 30 times and set on fire in February by a man who stole $350 from his home.

The county's other homicides last year were in Caln and East Fallowfield Townships and West Chester Borough.


BY THE NUMBERS

3

2010 homicides

in Coatesville.

1

2011 homicides

in Coatesville.

6

2012 homicides

in Coatesville.

0

2013 homicides

in Coatesville.

7

2010 homicides

in Chester County.

10

2011 homicides

in Chester County.

10

2012 homicides

in Chester County.

5

2013 homicides

in Chester County.


tnadolny@phillynews.com

610-313-8205

@TriciaNadolny

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