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Police: U.S. Census worker trespassed while on the job in York County

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
U.S. Census 2020 form.

A U.S. Census taker who lives in the Spring Grove area is now facing trial, accused of trespassing at a northern York County home while trying to do her job.

Margaret C. Powell, 53, of Porters Road in Heidelberg Township, remains free on her own recognizance, charged with misdemeanor defiant trespass and summary harassment, according to court records.

State police filed charges against her on Oct. 19.

At the close of her Nov. 23 preliminary hearing, District Judge Richard Thomas determined enough evidence exists for Powell to face trial on the two charges and forwarded her case to York County Common Pleas Court.

Charging documents filed by state police Trooper Stephen Stahl say there was a disturbance between Powell and a woman who lives in a home in the 1800 block of Pinetown Road in Warrington Township about 5:10 p.m. on Sept. 17.

The homeowner, Michelle S. Piper, told the trooper that Powell forced open an electronic gate and refused to leave after being ordered to do so by the owners, charging documents allege.

Piper said she repeatedly told Powell to leave because she was trespassing on private property but that Powell allegedly refused and said she was permitted to trespass because she worked for the Census Bureau, documents state.

What boss said: The trooper later spoke with Powell's manager, who indicated that Census takers aren't allowed to remain on a property when ordered to leave and that if a property has a fence or gate, Census takers aren't supposed to enter the property, according to charging documents.

Piper claimed Powell broke her electronic gate, but Powell said that didn't happen, police said.

Powell allegedly told troopers that Piper ordered her off the property but that she refused because she's a Census worker, documents allege.

Stahl originally filed a misdemeanor count of criminal mischief against Powell for allegedly breaking Piper's gate, but the district judge dismissed that charge at the Nov. 23 preliminary hearing, court records state.

A message left for Powell was not immediately returned Tuesday afternoon. A working phone number for Piper could not be found.

Kyle King, spokesperson for the York County District Attorney's Office, said prosecutors don't comment on ongoing investigations.

'Grace under pressure': The U.S. Census Bureau emailed a statement to The York Dispatch on Wednesday in a response to questions about the case. It reads:

"The Census Bureau doesn't comment on ongoing litigation or personnel matters. The law prevents us from disclosing information about any federal employee so our comments on this matter are limited. The Census Bureau is required to give everyone the opportunity to respond to the census since it is a count mandated by the Constitution. We ask that households cooperate with our census takers and respond to all Census Bureau censuses and surveys as it impacts their community's future."

In a Nov. 10 blog post, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham thanked Census takers, saying they were critical in accounting for 99.98% of all addresses nationwide.

"Repeatedly, our staff showed grace under pressure, persistence, and countless instances of kindness and concern for those in their community," he wrote in his blog post. "We have heard so many amazing stories and are cautious about sharing them because we take our vow to protect confidentiality so seriously."

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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