Chester gang task force recommendations include more officers, reorganizing sheriff’s staff

Sheriff Alex Underwood
Sheriff Alex Underwood

Chester County Council received recommendations from a county gang task force Monday night that has met several times since its inception following the November shooting death of Chester City Councilman Odell Williams.

Sheriff Alex Underwood’s top deputies participated in the task force, but Underwood has said repeatedly the task force is “all talk” when what the public needs is action, and more deputies, to protect public safety from violent gangs.

Chester has more documented gang members in at least five gangs - more than 170 - than York County with 137, although York County has eight times more population. Gangs in Chester accounted for at least 47 crimes in 2014, less than 2 percent of all crime, but many of those crimes were violent and included at least three homicides.

The task force was made up of two Chester councilmen and others from Chester’s government, schools and private sector. No action was taken Monday night but the Chester County Council will soon have to decide whether to act on proposals to add police, shift personnel at the sheriff’s office, or other options.

Some of the members have questioned Underwood’s structure in the department when Underwood asks for more officers, saying the department is top-heavy with managers. However, Underwood has said that he has units for patrol, investigations, administration, training, and other units that require the department be staffed the way he has it.

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