Police issues dominate Kennett Twp. meeting

From the nefarious tactics of the Felony Lane Gang to the shrewd instincts that reunited an elderly man with his family, police work dominated the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, May 18.

Bob Perrone receives a plaque for this 37 years of township service. He stepped down last month from the Kennett Township Zoning Hearing Board.

Bob Perrone receives a plaque for his 37 years of township service. He stepped down last month from the Kennett Township Zoning Hearing Board. Behind him is Supervisors' Chairman Scudder G. Stevens (left) and Township Manager Lisa M. Moore.

The bulk of the discussion centered on a report from a frustrated resident regarding the theft on Monday, May 16, of his wife’s purse from her vehicle. When she returned to her car at the Fairville Friends School, the window had been smashed. He said by the time an officer arrived – more than an hour and a half later – his wife’s credit cards were being used in various places, and he got a primer from bank officials about a criminal operation labeled the Felony Lane Gang.

“You should have more officers,” he told the supervisors. He said the knowledge that thieves had the family’s personal information had so unnerved his wife that he asked that their name not be publicized.

Both Police Chief Lydell Nolt and Supervisors’ Chairman Scudder G. Stevens said they shared the resident’s concerns about inadequate police coverage. “Your voice is being heard,” Stevens told the resident.

Nolt said the one officer on duty at the time was making an arrest, which is what delayed his response. If the incident had been an emergency, both state police and surrounding departments would have responded, he said.

A newly planted "pollinator garden," designed to attract bees and butterflies, graces the from of the Kennett Township building.

A newly planted "pollinator garden," designed to attract bees and butterflies, graces the front of the Kennett Township building.

Stevens explained that the police department is being expanded. “It’s a significant change to our budget,” Stevens said. “We’re doing all we can to increase it … We’re trying to do this as carefully as possible.”

Nolt also expressed frustration with the Fairville Friends School, which has resisted his suggestions to improve security and install surveillance cameras. He also stressed that he has no evidence linking Monday’s theft to the Felony Lane Gang; however, he said New Garden Township Police have had an incident tied to the criminal network, as has Tredyffrin Township Police.

The gang – and copycat operations – have made headlines across the country. Authorities have said they target areas where women often leave their purses in the car, such as schools, fitness centers, and daycare centers. Gang members set up surveillance and when a woman leaves her car without carrying a purse, the thieves quickly smash a window. If the crooks don’t find the purse underneath a seat or in the glove compartment, they’ll pop the trunk.

Once the thieves have someone’s information, they use it in various ways, not just making fraudulent credit-card purchases. In many cases, the gang members, who carry disguises, will don whatever wig helps them match the photo of the driver’s license they just stole. They then travel to multiple branches of the victim’s bank to cash bogus checks. They choose the drive-through lane farthest from the teller to avoid close scrutiny, explaining the origin of the Felony Lane moniker.

When a teller requests ID, the thieves can supply the stolen driver’s license or debit card. The thieves are usually traveling in stolen cars or have stolen plates or obscured ones to hinder apprehension. Victims’ IDs have also been used to drain bank accounts. Nolt said a federal task force is now looking into the gang’s operation.

Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt (from left) recognizes Officer Jeffrey Call for aiding an elderly man in distress at a sobriety checkpoint.

Kennett Township Police Chief Lydell Nolt (from left) recognizes Officer Jeffrey Call for aiding an elderly man in distress at a sobriety checkpoint.

On a more positive police note, the supervisors applauded Officer Jeffrey Call for an incident that occurred during a sobriety checkpoint on April 23. Nolt explained that Call interacted with an 82-year-old motorist whose disorientation did not appear alcohol-related. The officer summoned medical attention and eventually reunited the man with his worried family.

Nolt said during the course of the questioning, Call learned that the man had left the Bethlehem area more than eight hours earlier and had no idea where he was. Call’s intervention likely prevented a negative outcome, Nolt said.

The supervisors also recognized Bob Perrone for his 37 years of service to the township. Perrone stepped down last month as a member of the Kennett Township Zoning Hearing Board. Presenting him with a plaque, Stevens cited the quality and expertise of his “really exceptional service to the township.”

In other business, Township Manager Lisa M. Moore said she was pleased to report that a pollinator garden was just installed along the sidewalk at the front of the township building. Moore said the township received assistance from master gardeners from Penn State, who helped with plant selection and placement. The garden should attract endangered bees and butterflies, Moore said.

She said work was continuing on plans for the Fussell House, which the township purchased in January. The 1823 building was once the residence of Dr. Bartholomew Fussell, who sheltered slaves through the Underground Railroad.

Moore said the first priority is stabilizing the building, which had stood vacant and neglected for a number of years. Once that goal is accomplished, the township will pursue funding sources for rehabbing it and explore possible uses, perhaps a police headquarters, she said.

Whatever function is chosen, Moore said one room would likely be set aside as a “heritage room” and would contain artifacts from a variety of sources, including the Kennett Underground Railroad Center and Historic Kennett Square.

 

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