York City police chief addresses neighborhood group

Julia Scheib

From litter to run-down properties to the drug trade to the state of today's youth, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley heard many concerns when he spoke to residents of the Avenues neighborhood at a meeting of that neighborhood's association Thursday night.

Kahley's original purpose for speaking at the meeting was to address residents about an incident that happened last month. DaKeem Dennison, 19, was killed and another young man, Damon Banks Jr., 19, was shot inside a home in the 700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue on Dec.19.

The Avenues neighborhood is in the northwestern corner of the city, bounded on two sides by Roosevelt and Carlisle avenues.

Avenues Neighborhood Association President Mary Anne Bacas, who lives in the 600 block of Madison Avenue, said that, though her quiet neighborhood is not free of crime, the homicide shook up many residents.

She said that a "wake-up call" to keep her eyes peeled for crime came to her personally about a year ago when a drug-dealing operation being run out of the house two doors down from hers was busted. Her next-door neighbor, who was home caring for a new baby at the time, tipped off the police to what was happening, Bacas said.

Discussing a rash of shootings: "I know one thing pressing on everyone's mind is the recent homicide," Kahley said after joking a little with the crowd, who numbered about 35.

"We're still working that, we know who the people are, we know it wasn't random. It was targeted to that house, unfortunately."

Kahley said there were 17 shootings in the city in December. Although the city has seen a spike recently, it doesn't reflect a larger pattern, he said.

In 2015, there was a 12 percent drop in assaults with firearms, he said.

Most of York City's crime is drug related, and gangs are a major problem in York, Kahley said, noting that many of the teens involved in the recent gun violence belong to gangs.

"Young gang members, through the sale of drugs, can get weapons," he said.

Kahley, who has a 15-year-old son, said he's very concerned for the current generation of teens and the culture of violence that affects them.

He said he watched a detective interview Hydiea Banks, the 16-year-old girl arrested in connection with Saturday's shooting in which 18-year-old Shyhiem McDowell was seriously injured, and was shocked by the way she acted, though he didn't want to elaborate and wouldn't speak about a possible motive.

Resident concerns: Vickie Rice, of the 500 block of North Hartley Street, expressed her worries about the violence going on, especially because she temporarily has two grandsons, 10 and 13, living with her.

Rice said she attended Dennison's funeral and knows some of his family.

"What's going to happen with all of this violence?" she asked.

Rice said she helped to organize a rally against violence last year but wondered where to go beyond rallying.

"I know it starts at home, but I think we need to do something to reach these kids," she said.

She said she was alarmed by the idea of feuding gangs and wanted to see the city unite.

North Hartleigh St. resident Vickie Rice questions York City Police Chief Wes Kahley about what the next step is to end the violence as Kahley talks Avenues Neighborhood Association Thursday January 14, 2016. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

Seeking help: The chief expressed his understanding that many people might feel "unnerved" when police don't release information about a crime's investigation and explained that one reason for that is the fact that police often receive false statements, even from victims.

People lying to the police is becoming more common, he said.

Police are often held up, also, when those who might have information about a crime are unwilling to talk.

"People don't want to tell us their name or what happened," he said.

Kahley urged those in the room, many of whom voiced concerns about issues from syringes in the street in front of their homes to burglaries to drug activity, to let the police know whenever they see something they want police to address, and to be persistent in reporting things if a complaint isn't addressed.

"The squeaky wheel gets the grease," he joked.

Tips can be called in to the York City Police Department at (717) 846-1234 or sent anonymously via text to "Yorktips" at 847411.

Kahley wrote his cellphone number on the whiteboard at the front of the room and urged people to text him any time with any concerns they had.

The police chief said he tries to meet with as many neighborhood groups as he can. The last time he met with a group, he said, was in November, when he met with organizers of the new group called Mid-City South, which covers the area bounded by College Avenue, Cottage Place, Lindberg Avenue and Duke Street.