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On the afternoon of Sept. 18, a bank at Ridge Road and South Park Avenue in Lackawanna was held up. Within 10 minutes, the Lackawanna police had a suspect in custody, as well as the stolen cash. But this is more than just another case of outstanding police work.

A major factor in this quick apprehension was the outstanding cooperation and information provided by the citizens of Lackawanna.

Two brothers in the vicinity heard the suspect's description and route of flight broadcast on a police scanner. They followed the suspect and reported his movements to Police Headquarters on a cellular phone. Their actions, coupled with information provided by other citizens who witnessed the robbery at the bank, played a big part in this arrest.

A week earlier, the Lackawanna Police Narcotics Unit, along with members of the New York State Police, arrested 19 suspected crack cocaine dealers. Much of the information that led to these arrests was provided to Community Policing officers by concerned citizens. While the round-up of these suspects was taking place, other citizens were on the streets, applauding the officers and showing them where the suspects lived.

These two incidents show that the first phase of the Community Policing Program in Lackawanna has been a major success.

The community is working with the Police Department. The police officers are learning more about the community they serve and the community is learning more about the operations and capabilities of their Police Department. This results in a better quality of life for all residents of Lackawanna.

In 1998, the CommunityPolicing Program will be advanced even further when Police Chief Dennis O'Hara expands the program departmentwide. Lackawanna will be instituting its first-ever DARE program. Police officers will once again be walking beats. In warm-weather months, officers will be assigned to bicycle patrols. A speakers' bureau also will be started.

Let's hope the community stays involved, too.

Kathleen M. Staniszewski Mayor

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