The Ross Township Police Department has had a very successful Special Programs Division since the mid 1970s.
In 1975 Sergeant Richard Moran, realizing the need for community involvement, began the Neighborhood Crime Watch Program in Ross Township.
At the inception of the program Sergeant Moran was assisted by Officer Oscar Pennell. In 1979 Officer Pennell left the program as he was appointed juvenile Officer and shortly thereafter was promoted to Sergeant. To fill the gap Officer Robert Muchenski was appointed to assist in the program on a part time basis. Sergeant Moran left the program after his promotion to Lieutenant, which required new and expanded responsibilities on his part. At that time Officer Muchenski was moved to a full time Special Programs Officer.
In 1983 the program expanded with the addition of a civilian Crime Watch Coordinator. Donna Weglewski organized events and helped to establish a very active and effective block watch program. Donna also helped form the block parent program. A telephone system (surveyor 8) was purchased. This system allowed recorded telephone messages to be delivered to all persons who signed up for the service. Crime watch messages were delivered using the surveyor 8 for years. In 1991 Donna left Ross Township accepting a position as director of the Western Pennsylvania Crime Watch Association. She was replaced by Judy Rossi who started a successful vehicle identification program named operation SAVE (Stolen Auto Verification Effort) This project ended in the year 2000 as public interest in the program faded. Judy resigned due to health concerns and the position of civilian Crime Watch Coordinator was eliminated.
In 1991 the Special Programs Division began a pilot program teaching DARE in selected elementary schools. The program expanded to all public and parochial schools in the North Hills School District in 1993. With such an increased work load Officer Ronald Michael was dedicated to the Special Programs Division.
In 1996 management of the Ross Police Evidence Room came under the direction of the two full time Special Programs Officers.
In 1998 Officer Michael retired. To assist with the community programs and DARE Officers Armela McElheny, Mark Wuycheck, Robert Gaertner and William Barrett were appointed to assist Officer Muchenski on a part time basis.
In 2000 Officer Michael J. Thomas was assigned to the Special Programs Division with most of his time dedicated to the reorganization of the Evidence Room. He was certified as a DARE instructor and assisted Officer Muchenski in the elementary schools. In 2002 a follow up program to the sixth grade DARE classes was developed by Officer Thomas and was taught in the 8th grade in the North Hills School District and parochial schools.
Due to staffing issues and the loss of State grant money to fund DARE, Officer Thomas was reassigned to patrol leaving Officer Muchenski as the lone Special Programs Officer, although Officer Thomas did continue to teach the 8th grade program in his off time.
In December 2010 Officer Muchenski taught his last DARE class. He retired from the department on January 1, 2011 leaving quite a legacy behind. Having taught DARE for twenty consecutive years Officer Muchenski is recognized as the Police Officer who taught DARE for the longest period of time in the State. Ask any North Hills graduate, they all know “Mutch”.
In January 2011 the Evidence function was removed from Special Programs.
Following the retirement of Officer Muchenski the Special Programs Division went unstaffed.
The program was resurrected in May of 2011 by the newly appointed Chief Robert Bellan. Although there are no Officers assigned full time to Special Programs, the division is staffed on a part time basis and is fully covered.
The department joined the McGruff “take a bite out of crime” program. Although the program is also been phased out and has become obsolete many parts of this program are still very valid and used in our Crime Prevention Programs.
-In The early 1990s a new concept to keep our kids drug free know as DARE was born. Officers Robert Muchenski and Ronald Michael were the first Ross Officers to be certified as instructors. DARE was taught once a week for 17 weeks in the sixth grade.
-1991 Students in the St. Sebastian and St. Theresa of Avilla schools were the first to have the DARE program in their schools.
-1992 Perrysville Elementary and Northway Elementary were added.
-1993 All students in the North Hills School District as well as the parochial schools were included in the DARE curriculum.
-Following the retirement of Officer Michael, Officers William Barrett, Robert Gaertner and Michael J. Thomas were certified and taught the DARE program when needed under the direction of Officer Muchenski.
-2009 Due to scheduling and State funding cuts Officer Muchenski was left alone to teach the DARE program.
-2011 On January 1, 2011Officer Muchenski retired after serving the community as a Police Officer for 38 years. As there was no funding coupled with the retirement, the DARE program was eliminated and is no longer taught in the schools.
Although he passed away, thank you Lieutenant Moran for starting the program.
There is no way you can talk Ross Police Special Programs without thanking Officer Muchenski (retired).
Thanks for 38 years in the Department, 27 in Special Programs.
Thank you for DARE and all those kids you did keep off of drugs.
Thanks to Chief Bellan for resurrecting the program.