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Community organizer Jerri Zimmerman has her eye on the area of York City bounded by College Avenue, Cottage Place, Lindberg Avenue and Duke Street.

The York City Police community resource assistant has been talking with residents of the area, called "Mid-City South," about starting a neighborhood organization to help residents connect, build community and work with the police to make their streets safer.

On Monday, Nov. 16, Zimmerman and former York City poet laureate Carla Christopher, who lives in the neighborhood, will hold a meeting at the police department's community resource center, 426 S. George St., to get residents together and determine their needs.

The two organizers will lead a discussion to evaluate the pros and cons of the neighborhood and a brainstorming session to help residents form a vision for the neighborhood's future.

"I want to get as much opinion from them as possible: what they want in their future, what they see," Zimmerman said.

Residents were adamant about not forming a traditional neighborhood association like others in the city, Zimmerman said.

So the organization won't have a hierarchical structure. Instead, there will be a steering committee, she said.

Fighting crime: The Mid-City South neighborhood has a reputation for drugs, gangs and shootings, Zimmerman said.

"It's a close-knit community, but instead of that making it safer, it makes (residents) more hesitant to speak out," Christopher said.

So the first order of business will be to set up a block watch on every block. Two residents of each block will volunteer to be "block captains," and any time their neighbors call 911, feel threatened or see suspicious activity, they will report it to one of the captains.

"If for whatever reason (residents) don't feel comfortable speaking out," Christopher said, "they'll have an intermediary to do it for them."

Each block will have a monthly meeting to keep all residents on the same page, Zimmerman said.

Vision: "What we do should ideally be shaped by what people in the neighborhood say they need," Christopher said.

That could include activities for kids, resources to clean up the streets or any number of other resident requests.

Christopher said she felt a spiritual conviction that she needed to help bring together her neighborhood and empower residents.

And she's optimistic about the budding group. Although York has a reputation as a place for transient people, there are "lots of long-term residents" in the neighborhood, she said.

Organizing neighborhoods is key to the city's economic development, Christopher said. Calling her neighborhood "challenged," she said, "Nobody can be left behind. Not if we want York to really succeed."

— Reach Julia Scheib at jscheib@yorkdispatch.com.

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