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D.A. Carroll urges citizens to overhaul Coatesville

The Chester County District Attorney sent a New Year's message yesterday to the citizens of Coatesville: Overhaul your government.

Kareem Johnson
Kareem JohnsonRead more

The Chester County District Attorney sent a New Year's message yesterday to the citizens of Coatesville: Overhaul your government.

Joseph W. Carroll issued a four-page statement that outlined his "resolutions" for the county's crime capital, warning that the city has reached a "crisis point" and urging the replacement of the police chief and at least two City Council members.

"If Coatesville continues on its current path for another year or two, recovery during my lifetime will be improbable, if not impossible," Carroll wrote, promising for the next year to "put unprecedented emphasis on the City of Coatesville."

Ed Simpson, a City Council member who was reelected in 2008 to represent the city's first ward in the western section, said he had "no clue" that Carroll's release was coming but welcomed it.

Simpson said he has "absolutely" been frustrated by the council's failure to move decisively on the escalating crime rate in Coatesville.

"The city of Coatesville will never prosper until the streets are safe," he said.

Council president Karen Jorgenson could not be reached for comment.

Kareem Johnson, vice president and an at-large council member who is up for reelection, called Carroll's statement "unprecedented," but said he agreed with it.

"It's great to have him in the city as a taxpayer, and I respect him as a law enforcement officer," said Johnson.

For the last two years, Carroll, who worked at a Coatesville pizza shop and the YMCA in the 1970s, has focused on reducing crime in Coatesville, a city of about 12,000.

In July, he purchased half of a duplex in a drug-ridden neighborhood. Although he has not publicly discussed the rationale for the purchase, many residents said it reinforced his commitment to improving the city.

During a telephone interview yesterday, Carroll said he has been rehabbing the rundown, white-shingled home. He said he has received a warm reception from neighbors, who deserve better than a skyrocketing crime rate and a government with no remedies.

"Here's a reason to do this now: 2009 offers Coatesville voters a chance for a new beginning," Carroll said.

Four of the City Council's seven members are up for reelection in 2009: Johnson, Patsy Ray, Kurt Schenk, and Robin Scott. Those four usually vote together. Carroll didn't specify which of them he thought the voters should oust.

To illustrate Coatesville's lawlessness, Carroll said Phoenixville, a municipality comparable in size, had four robberies last year while Coatesville had 85.

In addition to ousting at least two council members, Carroll's statement lists other goals for Coatesville, which include having him spend at least 10 hours a week walking the streets, pressuring City Council to hire a police chief with Pennsylvania certification and command experience, installing a minimum of 10 surveillance cameras (the council has already authorized four, according to Simpson) and reducing the crime rate by at least 15 percent.

Carroll has criticized Police Chief William Matthews for failing to obtain police certification, which would authorize him to enforce the state crimes and vehicle code and carry a firearm.

Matthews, a former police administrator in Washington who was hired in May 2007, has said an undisclosed medical condition prevented him from receiving the training. He was on vacation and could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"Here's the big thing," Simpson said. "When you have a leader who is not certified or qualified to be a leader, it takes the morale of the entire force down. How can you ask your men to do something when you are not willing to do it yourself?"

Johnson, who voted to extend Matthews' contract, said constituents had complained about his lack of certification.

"Looking to the future when that position becomes available, we will definitely be going with someone certified," he said, declining to say that Matthews would be terminated.

Carroll said drug forfeiture money will fund many of the extra crime-fighting measures, and he hopes others will join him in volunteering their time - or simply turning on a porch light at night.

"The few violent criminals ruining Coatesville are no match for the rest of us," he wrote. "We must convince them of that by demonstrating that we are not afraid, that we are a united community, and that lawless behavior will not be tolerated."

Carroll said he wants input from residents, and he urged them to visit him at the house is renovating in Coatesville at 16 N. Eighth Ave. on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 6 and 9 p.m. or e-mail him at