For Chief Joseph Laguzzi, law enforcement is in his blood.
The recently appointed chief of police of Clarks Summit Borough's family tree is filled with relatives who, like himself, have devoted their lives to protecting and serving the public. He counts several uncles who were either state troopers or corrections officers, an aunt and cousins who were police officers and even a maternal grandfather who wore the blue.
"I had a lot of people in my life when I was a child growing up who were in the law enforcement community, so there was always an interest there," he said. "There was always an interest in what they did for a living, how they help people and how they could help resolve situations. I was always impressed by that. I always thought they did an interesting job; a very demanding job, but a job where you're doing good for the community and for people as far as taking care of situations and helping people out."
After he received a degree in criminal justice from the University of Scranton, Laguzzi enrolled in the police academy and then was hired to the Carbondale police force, where he worked for 20 years before accepting his position in Clarks Summit. While in Carbondale, Laguzzi served as a training officer and as a member of the S.W.A.T. Team of Lackawanna County. For the past eight years, Laguzzi has taught at the police academy at Lackawanna College. Laguzzi shared his early impressions of Clarks Summit as compared to Carbondale.
"It is a quieter area from where I come from; Carbondale is a great town, but it is a busy town because it is a small city," he said. "This area has a slower pace; there are calls here but some days you will have a busy day and other days are quiet. It is a great community, the people are very friendly and they like to interact with the police department."
Laguzzi explained that one such way the community interacts with the police department is by forging a personal relationship with the officers.
"They like to stop in and talk to you about certain things; it is nice to deal with people who are community-oriented who want to make the community a better place," he said. "They want to work with the police department on a first-hand basis to make that goal. The mayor and council here want the officers in the department to be out there and to be seen, they want them interacting with the community. There's a lot of things that the department already does; for example, we do house checks for people who are away or out of town."
This strong partnership with the community is what, Laguzzi believes, will assist the Clarks Summit police department in doing its job.
"Everyone in Clarks Summit has the mindset of moving the community forward and in the right direction," he said. "From a law enforcement standpoint, it is good to see the community so involved because the more interaction and cooperation from the community, the better for all concerned. A lot of our cases that we get solved come from tips. People call and tell us they see something suspicious and we take care of it. Neighbors looking out for each other and looking out for each other when they see something suspicious is what a strong community is about. A lot of cases are solved by people being proactive."
Laguzzi also plans to implement a rank structure in the department. He is also hoping to create a borough-wide crime watch and is meeting with state legislators to see about strengthening school safety.
One such way Laguzzi would like to partner with local schools is through the creation of a D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. Currently, Laguzzi teaches the program at Our Lady of Peace school in Clarks Green and at LaSalle Academy in Jessup.
"The schools are a big goal of mine," he said. "We have an elementary school in our jurisdiction. For a good part of my career, I was a D.A.R.E. Instructor and I am a big advocate of that program. Bullying is a big thing in schools now. I believe in officers coming in to the schools and teaching the children how to make a good decision."
Laguzzi urges Clarks Summit residents to contact him with any questions, comments or concerns, as well as tips, by calling 587-3026 or by emailing him at email@example.com.