York City shootings prompt both help and consequences

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
York City Police leave the scene at 206 South Penn St., in York City, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, where Matthew Alexander Bell, 32, was shot and killed and a 17-year-old wounded Monday night when shots were fired into the back of the home. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Law enforcement and community-outreach partners visited the neighborhoods of two recent shootings in York City with a twofold purpose — to reinforce the message that guns bring intense police scrutiny and that help is available to those trying to get away from the street life.

"Shootings bring police and guns bring police," Lt. Gene Fells said. which is one of the mantras of the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) initiative.

Another is, "We will stop you if you make us, but we'd rather help you if you let us."

Two incidents of gun violence prompted the latest GVI detail, according to Fells.


About 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, 18-year-old Angel Rivera was shot at the corner of West Princess and Hartley streets, he said.

Then about 10:50 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, Alfred Alexander Carr, 24, was shot while in the first block of East College Avenue, according to the lieutenant.

The men survived their wounds.

Fells said it was determined both shootings qualified for a GVI response.

That means both shootings were street violence attributable to either drug dealing, gang or neighborhood group involvement or other illegal activity.

Visited families: York City's GVI support and outreach team visited five homes, including those of the victims and of others believed to be connected to the shootings, Fells said.

At each of the five homes, families were given a phone number to call at any time of day or night for help with everything from basic necessities to job training, he said.

The "stick" portion of the two-pronged GVI carrot-and-stick approach was likely not as well received.

Police, probation officers and members of the York County District Attorney's Office descended on the two neighborhoods within 48 hours of the shootings and remained there for three days, according to Fells.

Probation officers made home visits to 40 people currently on probation, the team arrested four people with outstanding warrants. Police wrote two traffic citations and one warning card.

Police also made one criminal arrest after a visit to a home in the first block of East Maple Street. A probation-officer visit led police to obtain a search warrant for the home and then seize drug paraphernalia there, Fells said.

The team made contact with 53 neighbors to explain to the city's GVI initiative and how York City gun violence will always draw the attention of police to a neighborhood, according to Fells.

Officers conducted foot patrols through both neighborhoods as well, he said.

More:York City's shootings drop by half, GVI credited for reduction

More:Initiative lays down law on gun violence, offers 2nd chance

More:Helfrich optimistic about York's gun-violence initiative

About GVI: The Group Violence Intervention initiative is modeled after nationally renowned criminologist David M. Kennedy's work in Boston in the 1990s.

The premise of GVI, offered through the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and its National Network of Safe Communities, is that a very small number of people in any city perpetrate the vast majority of violent crimes.

So to reduce violent crime, law enforcement has to identify and target that small group of people, who are often involved in gangs or the drug trade or both. Those targeted during call-in presentations and home visits then carry the message back to their associates.

The message is that the community will do whatever it can to help individuals become productive, law-abiding citizens. But those who continue to perpetrate violence in York City will be dealt with harshly — and so will all their associates and neighbors.

Acting York City Police Capt. Matt Leitzel has said nonfatal shootings in York City in 2017 were half of what they were in 2016.

York City GVI coordinator Jim Tice has said those numbers show the initiative is working.

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