Bucks County Sheriff Fred Harran says crime has been steadily rising since the COVID pandemic, and he points the finger at the county’s leadership and its lack of action. In particular, he singled out the county’s two Democratic Commissioners.
“It’s not an ‘R’ and a ‘D’ thing,” said Harran, a 38-year law enforcement professional. “It’s a safety and a police thing. They just don’t want to support the police. I’ve been quiet as long as I can, and I hate to say it, but this is the time for change.”
Since the COVID pandemic ended, “in the last couple of years, we’re seeing a pretty dramatic (crime) increase in Bucks County,” said Harran. Robbery is up 22.7 percent, burglaries are up almost 33 percent, and theft is up 21.8 percent. Auto theft is up over 30 percent.
And he accused the Democratic commissioners of lying about the crime statistics.
While Democratic Commissioners Chair Bob Harvie and Vice Chair Diane Marselgia claim crime is down, “they’re using statistics, comparing pre-COVID days to COVID days.” During the pandemic, most people stayed home, so there were fewer burglaries and car thefts, he said.
“People’s houses don’t get burglarized at night. They get burglarized during the day when they’re at work. Well, if you’re not at work and working from home, it’s hard to burglarize your help,” said Harran, who was the police superintendent in Bensalem before he was elected county sheriff. “But we’re in a post-COVID world and crime is on the rise.”
“And one of the big problems that we’re facing is the amount of drugs that are out there, and now with the new drug Xylazine (Tranq), it poses all kinds of new problems,” said Harran.
One of those problems is how people with medical issues are treated in the county system.
“The issue is the jail does not have a medical component to it,” said Harran. “So the jail will not accept anybody that has any type of medical problem. So, when a police officer arrests somebody, I’ll give you a very simple but true story. So, if your blood pressure is elevated by the time you get to the prison, they won’t take you. So, who doesn’t get arrested and [experience] high blood pressure?
“So you have high blood pressure, they make you go to the hospital and now you’re taking police officers off the streets to go sit at a hospital while a person gets cleared and you’re posing a potential danger to the hospital,” Harran said.
“We saw what happened years ago with, in Newtown, in St. Mary’s Hospital with Officer(Brian) Gregg when he was fatally shot at St. Mary’s,” said Harran. Robert Anthony Flor killed Gregg and wounded two other people on Sept. 26, 2005. Flor was sentenced to death.
“Prisoners don’t belong in hospitals unless they have a hospital wing that’s properly secure,” said Harran. “The county’s going to have to pay the piper and they’re going have to get with the times. And, you know, we got some people in county positions right now that just have no interest in doing that,” he said, referring to Harvie and Marseglia.
Harran also disputes claims from the two Democrats that the county is adequately funding the sheriff’s office.
“They keep telling everybody they gave me $1 million. I can’t find it in my budget anywhere.”
Officials told Harran that he can hire two additional deputies now, two later and four in 2024.
“The way they do budgeting is absurd,” said Harran. “I’m trying to get (new) vehicles in my budget. They took them out of my budget and then told me, ‘Well, if you can find the cars, them come back to us and we’ll try to get you the money. Well, I’ve been doing budget for 16 years in Bensalem and I’ve never budgeted that way — ever.
I don’t know what school of budgeting they went to, but I’s nothing I’ve ever learned.”
Harran said he came into office wanting to “play in the sandbox with everyone.”
“Until someone throws the sand in my face. I’ve been in law enforcement 38 years. They came from other professions but they don’t know jack about my job.”
Commissioners Harvie and Marseglia did not respond to requests for comment.