Newspaper: The Patriot
Date: April 3, 1979
Title: Middletown Mayor Says ‘Looters Will be Shot’
Author: Jon Harwood and Tom Kelchner, Staff Writers
Middletown Mayor Robert G. Reid said Monday that he has issued a shoot-the-looters order to the borough police department.
“I gave my police instructions that if they see any looters, shoot them,” Reid said.
The concern about looting stems from the number of residents who have left communities near the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Londonderry Twp. Kevin J. Molloy, director of the Dauphin County Office of Emergency Preparedness, Monday estimated that 40 percent, or about 80,000, of the 200,000 county residents within a 20-mile radius of the plant have left the area.
However, Middletown and other communities close to the plant said Monday they had received no reports of looting or vandalism.
Also, several communities have followed Middletown’s lead by establishing curfews as preventive measures against looting.
In Dauphin County, 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfews are in effect in Lower Paxton, Lower Swatara and Swatara townships and the boroughs of Royalton, Highspire, Hummelstown and Steelton.
About 30 to 35 percent of the borough’s residents have departed, Reid said, but “a lot of these people came back (Monday) to go to work,” he said. Reid said Monday’s report of the reduction of the hydrogen bubble in the plant’s Unit 2 reactor and Sunday’s visit by President Jimmy Carter “lifted people’s spirits.” However, borough officials continue preparations for possible evacuation and residents are “still a little jittery,” he said.
“This won’t be forgotten as long as that plant is down there. It could be down there another 50 years, and even the kids will remember this,” Reid said.
Many residents also returned to Lower Swatara Twp. Monday, but about 20 percent remained out of the township, according to Township Manager Donald E. Bowman.
Bowman said there were no problems reported in the township. “It’s been quiet,” he said.
Highspire has been “very quiet,” Borough Police Chief William R. Youtz said Monday. “Everything is pretty well under control.”
Officials reported Saturday that 25-33 percent of the borough’s population had left, but Youtz said Monday he had “no idea” what that figure is now, “and I’d rather not say.”
In Royalton, the borough’s two-man, part-time force has been given permission to put in extra patrol hours because of the large numbers of borough residents who have departed. One borough officer said that no increases in crime had been reported, but noted that residents have not yet returned to report missing items.
Also, borough council has canceled its regular meeting, scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. No make-up date has been set.
Steelton Police Chief Kenneth Tindal reported Monday that “crime is down if anything” and that “there has been tremendous cooperation between police departments.”
Borough police patrols have been watching for suspicious vehicles or people in the area and “anybody that doesn’t belong out there we now about it and let other municipalities (police forces) know.”
Police Monday tried to estimate the number of borough residents who have left and Tindal said his best guess was 25 percent.
“Basically what we’re doing is not to discourage them,” he said. “If they feel more secure going somewhere else, as a public official I say ‘go ahead,'” he said.
Tindal said he met with borough councilmen and the mayor Monday afternoon and they prepared a handbill listing evacuation information for borough residents.
Swatara Twp., which is outside a 5-mile radius of the plant and inside a 10-mile radius, instituted a curfew Sunday night because “quite a few people” have left the township, Police Chief Robert L. Walmer said Monday.
Walmer estimated that about one-third of the township’s population, which exceeds 20,000, has left the area.
Reflecting the thoughts of numerous area residents, Swatara Commissioner David Colestock said Sunday that he was taking his family “into the mountains” but that he would return alone on Monday. ” Just knowing that (his family) is on their way out of here makes me feel better,” he said.
Lower Paxton Twp., also outside the five-mile radius, instituted a curfew Sunday night because 30 to 35 percent of the township’s 33,000 residents have left, officials said. Calls to check houses have averaged 40 a day, officials said.
Londonderry Twp., which houses the nuclear plant, has no curfew. “I guess we’re so close we don’t need a curfew,” one resident said.
The township does not have a police department, but state police, which patrol the township, reported there has been one minor burglary in the township between Wednesday and Sunday.
Capt. Joseph I. C. Everly, commander of the state police at Troop H, said only one other minor burglary, in Conewago Twp., had been reported in the last five days.
Everly said that 32 troopers were brought into the area from Troop A in Greensburg to assist local officers. Also, additional troopers have been added to “anti-looting patrols” on the midnight to 8 a.m. shift, he said.
Since the incident at the plant, troopers also have investigated four accidents, “which is nothing,” he said.
He said troopers noticed no congestion caused by residents leaving their homes. A few traffic tie-ups have occurred on Route 441 near the nuclear power plant caused by curiosity seekers, news reporters and visiting VIP’s, he said.
In the southern Dauphin County area, troopers from Troop H normally patrol in Royalton and the townships of Londonderry, West Hanover and Conewago. During the emergency state police patrols have been overlapping areas with officers in Middletown, he said.
During President Jimmy Carter’s Sunday visit, about 25 troopers supplemented secret service guard in Middletown, Everly said.
Troopers also have provided escort for oversize trucks carrying equipment and lead bricks to the Three Mile Island plant.
Everly said he did not know how many residents had left their homes in the townships near the power plant where state police patrol, but added that he found most restaurants on Route 22 closed Monday morning when he was looking for a place to buy breakfast.
In West Donegal Twp., Lancaster County, township Police Chief Raymond Libhart said the level of crime in his township has been about normal since Wednesday.
No looting has been reported, he said.
“We have round-the-clock patrols and they keep a pretty good eye on things,” he said.
Libhart said his officers had investigated no traffic accidents since the beginning of the emergency at the nuclear power plant and no congestion caused by evacuees has been reported.
He estimated that about a fourth of the residents of the township have left their homes.
“Some left Friday and returned Sunday and some left Sunday night,” he said.
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