Shootings jumped 34% in York City in 2020

Harper Ho
York Dispatch
York City Police investigate the scene of a shooting at Penn Park in York City, Wednesday, June 10, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The number of shootings in York City in 2020 spiked by 34% over the previous year — an increase police said was driven in part by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow said there was a lull in shootings in York City early  in the year and at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

January 2020 had one shooting and February two, according to records from York City Police. 

Muldrow said people were then cooped up for weeks following Gov. Tom Wolf's lockdown orders issued in March, which he believes created a ticking time bomb for violent crime.

More:York City avoids government shutdown, passes budget

"I think it created a quiet storm that once everybody was so trapped and pent-up being in the house and suffering from those ill feelings," Muldrow said, "you saw an explosion thereafter, once everybody got out and got loose."

Overall, there were 75 shootings in 2020 in York City. That was up from 56 in 2019. 

There were three shootings in March, five in April and two in May, according to police data. 

Then, as state-mandated restrictions on movement and commerce began to lift, the number of shootings rose sharply and continued to soar until the end of the year. 

June jumped to six shootings, July seven and August four, according to police data.

The bulk of 2020 shootings happened from September through December, with the highest being 11 in October. Muldrow took office as the new commissioner at the end of that month. 

York City Police investigate a reported shooting in the 100 block of South Pershing Avenue in York City, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

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"Obviously it has been troubling even before I came on," Muldrow said. “It's an eyesore that I have to own and not be satisfied with."

September and December each had eight shootings, and November had seven, according to police data.

There were 64 nonfatal shootings overall in York City in 2020, up from 42 in 2019.

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While the sheer number of shootings in York City spiked, the number of homicides declined relative to the previous year, according to county Coroner Pam Gay.

"I think right now we seem to be about average for what we've been running since I've been coroner," said Gay, who has been the county coroner for almost eight years. "It could be worse, while it's still not good."

The York County Coroner's Office reported that 11 of the 12 homicides in York City for the year were from gunshot wounds.

Four other shooting deaths happened in York County, bringing gun-related homicides to 15 out of 19 total killed in 2020, according the coroner's data.

"For the number of shootings that we have, our deaths are relatively low in comparison to the number of shootings," Gay said. "It's still tragic. People's lives are lost unnecessarily, but we've had worse years."

In 2019, 14 out of 17 homicides in the city and 19 out of the 22 for the county as a whole were gun-related.

York City Police investigate a reported shooting in the 500 block of West King Street in York City, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Metro areas such as Detroit and Philadelphia and even smaller cities like Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Milwaukee, saw a spike in gun violence in 2020 too, according to The Associated Press.

Authorities and experts say there are no clear-cut reasons and instead point to social and economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 virus in addition to animosity toward police following George Floyd’s death in police custody in Minneapolis.

They said unprecedented unemployment numbers and a shortage of resources in poorer communities were also contributing factors, according to the AP.

Muldrow said he's aware of the recent sporadic slew of shootings as 2020 came to a close and that the department is trying to clamp down. 

On Monday, an 18-year-old man was shot in the 600 block of South Pershing Avenue.

More:Police: Man shot in 600 block of South Pershing Avenue in York City

Before that, 27-year-old Jasmine Barnes died in late December following shootout with two people in the 600 block of East Philadelphia Street.

More:Police seek two after woman gunned down in York City

Also in December, 18-year-old Ayuri Jamison died in a shooting at the 900 block of East King Street.

More:UPDATE: Coroner IDs teen killed in York City shooting

They were among the youngest killed by gun violence in York County in 2020.

"There's a gun arrest almost every other day at this point," Muldrow said, adding that, as unnerving as that sounds, "I see that as amazing work being done. They're literally taking an illegal gun off the street almost every other day."

Muldrow also noted that shooting patterns have changed from shootings happening mainly in the evening or night to the middle of the day.

"Now we're even dealing with and contending with things during the daytime, so it's definitely a struggle whether you're wearing a uniform or not," Muldrow said. "It's something that none of us are satisfied with and everybody are at their wits' end.”

Both Gay and Muldrow echoed that shootings did subside at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but have since rebounded.

"We're struggling right now. We're losing young people (to gun violence) all the time,” Muldrow said. "None of us are OK with the current conditions.”