Jason Domaratz has a lot invested in Harmar. Not only is he a lifelong resident, he began working for the township two decades ago.
In April, he became its chief of police.
When he decided to become a police officer, however, his mother and grandparents were not enthusiastic about his choice, he said.
"They were worried," he said. "My grandparents lived right beside us, and my grandmother would always have a scanner on to see what I would be doing."
When he returned from work, he often called his mother and his grandparents to let them know he was safe.
Chief Domaratz, 39, grew up in Harmar, surrounded by his relatives, including his grandparents, Florence and Frederick Domaratz Sr.
He still lives in the house where he grew up, and his father, Frederick Domaratz Jr., also still lives in Harmar.
"I am familiar with most of the residents and the area, probably better than anyone," Chief Domaratz said. "I can deal with issues and know what is going on because I know them, I know this area."
He began working for Harmar in 1990 with the road and parks department. After spending some time in construction and other positions, he decided he wanted to become a police officer.
"I knew construction just wasn't what I wanted to do; it just wasn't for me," he said.
After graduating from the Allegheny County Police Academy in 1994, he worked as a part-time officer for three neighboring boroughs before he joined the Harmar police department in 1998.
Harmar has about 3,200 residents. Its numerous businesses and its proximity to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Route 28 present particular challenges for police.
"Since we are in the middle of Philly and Cleveland and so close to the Turnpike, we have to watch the drug traffic very carefully," Chief Domaratz said. "Our goal is to keep our residents and business owners safe, and we take our jobs very, very seriously."
The township has seven full-time and five part-time officers. At least two officers are on duty at all times. "We have reduced criminal activity since we made this [staffing] move," he said.
Before he took the job of chief, the position had been vacant for more than five years while a study was conducted to determine the best methods of organizing the township police department.
"It was an independent study done by a former police chief, and the one thing that it really stressed was that we needed a police chief, someone to oversee the department," Chief Domaratz said.
In the three months he has been on the job, he has overseen the police department's move to the second level of the township building.
"We have far outgrown our space, and that level had been designated for the police department for some time," he said. The new space gives the police chief a larger office, each of the ranking officers their own offices and adds an interviewing room, locker room, public restrooms and a larger squadron room.
Chief Domaratz said his mother, Melody Pierce, still worries about him and reminds him to "wear his vest" when he goes on call.
But his biggest supporter, he said, is his 10-year-old daughter, Jaden.
"When I have a bad day, she tells me what a good job I am doing," he said.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org .