CAMBRIA COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — City officials in Johnstown held a press conference Wednesday morning where they discussed the rise in violent crimes in the city.

Johnstown Police Department (JPD) Chief Richard Pritchard opened the meeting by discussing six homicides that have occurred in Johnstown since the beginning of the year. The most recent took place late Monday, April 4. Pritchard also highlighted four additional shootings that injured three people and killed one other.

“This violence has to stop now,” Pritchard said. The police chief reported that several arrests were made in connection to the homicides but urged the importance of the community’s assistance in bringing those responsible to justice.

“The Johnstown Police Department allows individuals to report information discreetly and or anonymously. We have the internet or text messaging,” Pritchard said. “The system is actively monitored by JPD administrative teams and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. While you may not see immediate action from these calls, I can assure you the information that you provide is evaluated.”

The Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers will also be offering a $1,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with information that helps solve any homicides in Cambria County.

Pritchard pointed to a national increase in violent crimes saying it has made its way to the city. He also informed of a new policing initiative that is supported by the city council who plans to provide financial support.

“Policing across our nation has become more reactive than proactive for various reasons, including a lack of staffing and lack of funding. This violent crime wave is now spreading to the city of Johnstown. For a police agency to be effective, we must have the support of our citizens. We absolutely have to have it,” Pritchard said. “To affirm this support and approval of our citizens, I met with the Johnstown City Council yesterday in an executive session to propose to them a proactive policing initiative that we will be conducting here in Johnstown in response to these violent acts. I’m proud to say the council pledged their support for this initiative and agreed to the funding we need to sustain its operation.”

The police chief did not provide specifics on the initiative but said it would involve ramping up proactive policing around specific neighborhoods. He concluded by saying there will be law and order in the city of Johnstown and said the initiative is going to ensure it.

Cambria County District Attorney Greg Neugebauer echoed Pritchard’s remarks saying they have overall good support from the community on their policing efforts but added the city needs a little more help.

Neugebauer continued saying they are provided assistance from state and federal law enforcement partners but stated the citizens also provide crucial assistance.

“Sometimes the most important assistance is from home. It is from a citizen that does the right thing,” Neugebauer said. “The right thing to do is cooperate with law enforcement to bring these perpetrators of violence to justice to ensure people can feel safe and enjoy the city they chose to live in and the city they love.”

Johnstown Mayor Frank Janakovic also expressed how important the cooperation of citizens is and said coming forward and sharing information helps solve these issues.

“We can’t do this without the citizens coming forward, sharing information and knowing what’s going on out there,” Janakovic said. “Police can’t be everywhere but they’re doing their best out there. We also need the citizen’s support to make these things happen and solve some of these issues.”

The mayor added many of the violent crimes in the city are one on one and warned the issue will continue to grow if it is not addressed.

Cambria County Coroner Jeff Lees shared his thoughts on the high number of homicides by saying he is concerned not only as a coroner but as a citizen of Johnstown. Lees commended the city police department and said the bureau is second to none and top-notch.

He also cautioned city council members that many officers are being taxed due to short staffing. Lees continued by saying crime scenes are complex and time-consuming and investigators only have one opportunity to conduct and execute their investigations properly.

“It is crucial that steps are taken properly and professionally so police can do their job to prosecute,” Lees said.

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Johnstown City Manager Ethan Imhoff said they are going to explore all possible avenues to help fund the police department and provide the resources they need. However, council member Marie Mock clarified the city cannot use CARES act or American Rescue Plan Act funds to help hire police and public safety personnel. Council members also noted that a difference can be made if neighborhoods collaborate to help bring pride back to the area.

“We need to reinstall that pride in our neighborhoods, take pride in our home and work with your children. So it starts in the home,” Janakovic said.


ORIGINAL STORY — Cambria County District Attorney Gregory Neugebauer along with members of the Johnstown Police Department held a press conference Wednesday morning to discuss the rise in violent crime in the city.

Neugebauer joined Cambria County Coroner Jeff Lees Tuesday to discuss three homicides that occurred within a four day period in Johnstown. Lees said he is greatly concerned with the high number of homicides and said a total of six have taken place since the beginning of the year.