A joint presentation by Hellertown Police Chief Robert Shupp, Lower Saucon Police Chief Guy Lesser and Lower Saucon Police Investigator Christopher Leidy was the highlight of a Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce breakfast held at Lower Saucon Town Hall Feb. 23.
Called "Protecting Our Community," the updates by the chiefs covered everything from crime-related casino impacts in Hellertown to identity theft.
Both Shupp and Lesser also discussed their backgrounds, which combined, include decades of service to the Saucon Valley area.
Shupp, a 1994 graduate of Nazareth Area High School, has been with the Hellertown Police Department for 11 years. He began his career as a patrolman and after six years was promoted to investigator, before becoming chief in 2009.
His interests include spending time outdoors, playing golf and helping take care of his seven-week-old baby girl, he said.
Lesser has been a police officer since 1975, and chief of the Lower Saucon Police Department since 1984.
In addition to holding a degree in psychology, "Guy continues his education...and has kept up well with his profession," Hellertown-Lower Saucon Chamber of Commerce President Rod Long said in introducing him.
A member of Steel City Mennonite Church in Lower Saucon, Lesser said his interests outside of work include sports.
Overall, Lesser said, Lower Saucon Township remains a safe community, seemingly removed from the crime and chaos of more urban areas nearby.
"We still have some residents that don't lock their doors and even leave their keys in their vehicles occassionally," he said.
Following up on that, he added that residents should realize that home break-ins and vehicle thefts can be crimes of opportunity, and do occur in Lower Saucon.
He urged residents to secure their property and belongings and to never hesitate to contact the police department if they observe something that just doesn't look right.
"If you feel it's suspicious, well, then it is suspicious," he said. "Don't hesitate to call the police."
Shupp focused his portion of the presentation on discussing how the opening of the Sands casino in Bethlehem has changed policing in Hellertown during his tenure.
Crimes that were rare or unknown just a couple of years ago are beginning to become more commonplace, he explained.
As an example, Shupp said the Borough of Hellertown no longer accepts $100 bills in its office, because they had begun to receive counterfeit $100 notes from "people from out of town."
DUI arrests have increased since the casino's opening, he said, "I'm assuming, because the casino serves free alcohol."
"We're starting to see drugs coming in and in larger quantities," he also noted.
According to Shupp, narcotics arrests in Hellertown have increased 190 percent since the casino's opening.
To offset the increases in crime and threats to public safety, the Hellertown Police Department was the recipient of several grants from the Northampton County Gaming Revenue and Economic Redevelopment Authority late last year.
The grant money has been used to hire two more police officers, to purchase a new cruiser and for training purposes, Shupp said.
In particular, he praised the grant money that is paying for training.
"That was just outstanding," he said. "That's training our officers never would have received. We never could have afforded it."
As part of the presentation Feb. 23, Lower Saucon Police Investigator Christopher Leidy discussed identity theft, and how individuals can protect themselves from it.
Simple, common-sense steps to take include shredding personal and financial documents; refusing to give out confidential information over the phone; and calling the police if something suspicious occurs.
Unfortunately, elderly residents are often the target for individuals attempting to commit identity theft, Leidy said.
Some of the cases the Lower Saucon Police Department has investigated have involved individuals from as far away as California and Nevada, he noted.