WILKES-BARRE – Frank Monda and about a dozen of his neighbors gathered in front of his South Franklin Street home Tuesday morning for a Voice of the People rally.
The Voice of the People group was formed to show support for Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta and his Illegal Immigration Relief Act, but organization representatives say they’re also fighting crime and drugs.
Monda was asked to host a rally because he recently went public about his neighborhood’s battle against prostitutes and drug dealers.
He pointed to the “I believe” signs in his windows and said he sees both improvements and decline in the city.
“I’m not afraid and there are a lot of people who aren’t afraid, and we’re speaking up because we don’t want this to continue,” he said.
Monda urged people to turn on their porch lights and be watchful.
Luzerne County minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban told the group that his son recently witnessed a drug deal during the day in front of the post office on South Main Street. A businessman chased away the culprits, Urban said.
Urban told people they may call his cell phone at 262-9840 if they are scared but want to pass on tips about drug activity or other crime. He said he will forward the information to law enforcement.
Urban chatted with an 81-year-old audience member who lives on South River Street. The man didn’t want his name printed, saying he’s afraid of retaliation and plans to remain in the neighborhood where he has lived for 53 years.
The man said a prostitute recently approached him during the day, asking if he wanted to “have a good time.” He said he believes increased awareness about drug activity near Monda’s home has chased drug dealers to his street.
City mayoral candidate Linda Stets also spoke during the rally, saying the current administration focused too much on Public Square and not enough on neighborhoods. City officials say they pay attention to the city as a whole, not just the downtown.
Voice of the People representatives said they are pushing legislators to permanently station a federal drug and crime task force in Wilkes-Barre.