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Cops, Courts & Fire -Bristol Borough

County Co-Responders Initiative Agreement Approved by Council

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A human services program, sponsored by Bucks County and online in three other municipalities, moved one step closer to becoming reality in Bristol Borough Monday night.

Borough Council approved an agreement with the county to participate in the Co-Responder initiative through a block grant the county received. The initiative seeks to employ professional social workers working in tandem with local police departments to assist police on human services related calls.

The proposal was approved unanimously by council after Officer in Charge, Sgt Joe Moors explained the program which  is funded for the next two years.

The purpose of the program, Moors said, is decrease the amount of time police departments spend responding to situations where social services are needed.

Credit: YouTube

Boro officers responding to calls would assess the situation and if there is a human services related need, such as mental health, drug and alcohol issues, or domestic situations  the Co-responder team assigned to us will respond to that situation, Moors said.

If there is anything Co-Responders could do on the scene with the help of police officers to deescalate a situation that would be their primary purpose, Moors said.

 

Another important aspect of the program is diversion of people from the criminal justice system to the human services system. Police responding to a call involving a person experiencing an emotional crisis, will be able to access the human services workers so the person isn’t arrested and is provided the help and resources they need to overcome the crisis, without having to go to jail, which is an aspect of the program, mental health advocacy organizations like Bucks County NAMI strongly support.

Co-responders collaborate and coordinate with agencies both in the county’s criminal justice system, such as the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices, as well as more than two dozen social services groups including the Area Agency on Aging, the Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services Agency and the Network of Victim Assistance, said the county late last year.

Co-Responders would not be patrolling with police or be placed in harms way, Moors said.

A six-month review last year indicated the Co-responders stationed in Bensalem seemed already to be helping to reduce the amount of time police officers were spending on non-crime calls. Further review will be required to substantiate the early, but promising, finding.

The first two Co-Responders Hired at Press Conference in Bensalem Bucks County
Credit: Bucks County

“It’s a real good program and we’ve been looking into it for several months now”, Council President Ralph DiGuiseppe said, “and is well worth it.”

The program first launched in Bensalem Township in 2020, and is now in Falls and Middletown Township’s.

Tullytown and Bristol Township are also expected to be a part of Co-Responder Program as they, along with the borough, will have access to two social workers to assist police with human services issues.

Bristol Township Manager Randee Elton said Tuesday morning the township was waiting to see how the vote by borough council turned out.

We have had informal discussions and knew the Borough had (it) on their agenda last night and was waiting to see how their Council voted. Now that they voted to approve, we will place (it) on the agenda for next week’s meeting on February 17th for Bristol Township’s Council, said Elton

Questions about when the initiative would begin in Bristol was addressed by County Spokesman, Jim O’Malley Tuesday.

So long as the municipalities approve it, the county expects the new co-responders could be working with the Bristol Borough, Bristol Township and Tullytown police departments some time in the spring,  O’Malley said.

The effort which has been championed by Bucks County Commissioners Diane Ellis-Marseglia, who is a licensed social worker (LCSW) herself said of the effort late last year, “I am certain this is going to provide relief for officers who have been managing human service issues and will be a responsive service for residents facing challenges.”

The county salary board approved the positions last December that are expected to work with BBPD. Currently there are four, Co-Responders working in Bucks.

The workspace assignments for the co-responders also have not yet been finalized as of yet, a county official said.

Tullytown officials did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

 

 

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Cops, Courts & Fire -Bensalem Township

Bensalem Twp Council To Vote On Volunteer Fire Company Consolidation Monday Night

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Just under two years ago at a Bristol Borough Council meeting, officials were getting an update on the then planned fire company consolidation effort by Steve Reeves,  president of the Bristol Borough Fire Association. At the time, talk of consolidating fire companies in the borough and Bristol Township was a hot topic.

During his presentation Reeves mentioned consolidation talks of the Bensalem fire company volunteer services were also in progress. At the time tidbit was not in the public domain.

Credit: Submitted

Now after two years of planning, the Bensalem Township Council will vote on a resolution to form The Bensalem Volunteer Fire Department at its next meeting Monday night.

If the resolution is passed, the six legacy fire companies, including Cornwells, Eddington, Newport, Nottingham, Trevose, and Union, will be consolidated into one volunteer fire department. This consolidation plan is necessary to ensure adequate fire/emergency response within the township because of reduced membership amongst the current companies, a press release announced late Friday afternoon.

Credit: Submitted

Reeves knew what he was talking about at the time. Lower Bucks Source in the following days reached out to area first responder sources, officials and Bensalem area volunteer firefighters. No one anywhere would go on or off the record. LBS was directed, by Battalion Chief/Fire Marshal Robert Sponheimer, to the Deputy Director of Public Safety Robert Race who politely declined to respond to a request for comment at the time.

Credit: Submitted

Late last year, according to a Lower Bucks Times report, Bensalem officials spoke rather openly about dwindling volunteer numbers.  This led William McVey, director of public safety, to ask for council approval to apply for a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant through FEMA, which was subsequently approved in November by council.

This past February the township announced the hiring of Mark Antozzeski as the first career Fire Chief in Bensalem history. He is leading the volunteer fire services, as well as Bensalem Fire Rescue, career staff. McVey told Bensalem Patch.com the hiring was an important piece of the consolidation process.

 

Credit: Submitted

Earlier this month,  Nottingham Fire Department Chief Ron Harris was named the Bensalem Volunteer Fire Department Deputy Chief as part of the consolidation effort, according to published report. 

Credit: Submitted

Beginning Friday evening, shortly after receiving the Bensalem announcement on the expected consolidation vote, first responder sources Lower Bucks Source contacted said that back in 2022 when first contacted they declined to comment because the topic was sensitive in nature and a real possibility of backlash existed and concerns about “sabotaging” the process were also omnipresent. Those sources again declined to comment on the record.

Consolidation Efforts in Bristol Borough & Bristol Township

In February, Bristol Borough voted to consolidate their volunteer fire services. Prior to that step the borough approved applying for a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program Grant in the amount of $1.5 to build a new fire house at a yet to be determined location.

As far back as February of 2022, a smaller plan in size and scope was being discussed in Bristol Township involving Newportville Fire Company #1, Third District Fire Company with career fire personnel from the township which came off the heels of  a fire study completed in 2020.  That plan is no longer in play, fire officials say. Third District Fire Chief Howard McGoldrick said it’s a “complete mystery” why Newportville ultimately decided against the discussed move and merger.

” Volunteer fire services in Bucks County are changing right before our eyes” one first responder said last year.

Credit: Submitted

In each of the consolidation efforts, public safety, declining volunteer numbers and increasing costs have been cited repeatedly by officials publicly.

“It’s just not sustainable anymore financially for fire companies, the municipalities they serve, and taxpayers. It’s consolidate or die”, a high ranking first responder source said Friday.

Bensalem Council is expected to pass the resolution with its vote tonight.

Editor’s Note:  Each of the images in this story come from the volunteer fire companies serving Bensalem Township.

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Cops, Courts & Fire -Bensalem Township

Thunderstorm Rips Through Lower Bucks Area Friday Evening

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A Friday evening thunderstorm ripped through the Lower Bucks County area causing power outages, trees to come down, and other related damage.

The storm swept the area beginning around 6 p.m. just as the evening rush hour for motorists was ending.

Scattered wind gusts were expected, with up-to 1/4 inch sized hail and intermitted lightening were called for by forecasters before the storm landed.

Credit: Submitted

In the Winder Village section of Bristol Township, public safety officials say a tree landed on a vehicle while the motorist was operating the vehicle. The driver was able to get out of the vehicle under his own power with no injuries, Third District Fire Company officials said.

Credit: Submitted

 

In the Bensalem -Bristol areas, dozens are still without power, as of 7 a.m. Saturday morning, Information, according to PECO, is still pending assessment in the Croydon  and West Bristol sections of Bristol Twp.

Credit: PECO

No information on any injuries sustained as a result of the storm at this time.

Approximately 400 customers remain without power, PECO officials say in the Lower Bucks County area as of publication time.

Credit: Joe Nelson

 

 

 

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Breaking News - Bensalem Township

“Armed Man” Initiates Lockdown for Levittown Elementary School Thursday, No Charges Filed

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Brookwood Elementary

**Update: Friday 4 a.m.**

Earlier Thursday, Brookwood Elementary in Bristol Township instituted their “Lockdown Procedures” due to an alleged report of a “armed man” in the area of the school.

Parents received a community update notice which said they were in lockdown due to a security concern in a nearby neighborhood.  The notice said updates would be provided as they occur and to please not come to or contact the school.

Police dispatched to the elementary school raced up Haines Road one witness told the publication taking one man into custody, authorities  said.

“There was an incident involving an adult male, who was in possession of a firearm near the school crossing guard post (Kenwood Drive North & Key Lane.) There is no information at this time that he attempted to enter the school. The matter is under investigation. No one has been arrested as of this time,” said Lt. Sean Cosgrove in an e-email exchange with Lower Bucks Source, shortly after the incident.

At 1:30 p.m., the lockdown was lifted without further incident.

 

 

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