Fodor: Crime Suppression Team Making Dozens Of Arrests

Somerset County Chief of Detectives John Fodor, Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson, Township Manager Robert Vornlocker and schools Superintendent John Ravally at the February 4 town hall meeting about violence, held at Franklin Middle School – Hamilton Street campus.

A special “crime suppression team” comprised of township and county detectives made nearly three dozen arrests in January, the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Chief of Detectives said during a town hall meeting on February 4.

Chief of Detectives John Fodor, who is also serving as the Franklin Township Police Department’s senior officer, made the statement during a town hall meeting called to discuss the township’s violence problem.

The meeting was organized by Township Councilman Carl Wright (D-Ward 4), and besides Fodor featured Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson, Township manager Robert Vornlocker and schools Superintendent John Ravally.

Wright has said that he wanted to have the discussion in the wake of a raft of shooting incidents near the end of 2019 that left two people dead.

The crime suppression team “started several months ago, we ramped it up in December and January and currently in January, close to 30 arrests have been made in drugs and guns,” Fodor told the more than 100 people who attended the meeting. “We recognize there is a problem, and we put that team out there in Franklin Township.”

When asked to name the street gangs currently operating in the township, Fodor demurred, instead saying that police are investigating “two groups of individuals.”

“We’re trying to build a good criminal case against them,” he said. “Timelines are difficult in our field, there are certain investigative strategies that we have to employ, and they’re not always quick.”

“Do I see a huge gang problem in Franklin Township? No,” he said. “Do they exist? I’d be naïve to say they don’t. But it’s not as widespread as one would expect.”

Vornlocker said one of the biggest steps the township is taking to curb violence among youth is building teh $11 million youth center on Lewis Street.

The youth center, he said, won’t be just for recreation.

“This building is about counseling, social services, there is discussion right now about having professionals on staff with the town managing the building,” he said. “There’s been a number of discussions with all the county agencies to partner with them. Many discussions with the Board of Education about educational opportunities, a wing of the library is provided in this building.”

“We’re looking to provide not only a fun environment, but also an educational environment and a safe environment for those kids to just drop in and have fun, learn and if need be, get the counseling they need to make them productive measures of society,” Vornlocker said. “All of these things go to, what can we do to break this cycle of violence? If we can work with kids at a young age and work them in conjunction with the Board of Education and law enforcement, I think we can truly make strides to stop this, get a hold on it now and eliminate it in the future.”

Ravally spoke about efforts teh school district is taking to help curb violence. He talked about security measures at the school, including the placement of School Resource Officers in every elementary school, plus physical barriers that are being built to thwart intruders.

Ravally also said that a group of administrators, teachers and “high-risk students” would be traveling to Baltimore to attend the New Vision Youth program, with an eye toward bringing some of the concepts used there to Franklin.

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