York City's top cop invites public to join him in 'walking the walk' twice a week

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

York City's new police commissioner is inviting people to join him in walking through city neighborhoods twice a week.

"You can't be afraid in your own hometown," Commissioner Michael Muldrow said, adding that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that people will avoid committing crimes in areas where police officers are visible.

It's about going back to the core of policing, as he has opined before — about community policing, about engaging citizens to become stakeholders in a larger solution. Muldrow has been walking in city neighborhoods, meeting residents and answering questions, and said people are ready to get involved.

The "neighborhood impact walks" are part of York City's ongoing Group Violence Initiative, Muldrow said, a way to empower people and let them know the police are there for them.

The walks will happen every Tuesday and Thursday, weather and schedules permitting, from 6 to 8 p.m. and everyone is welcome, he said. Walkers will meet in front of York City's police station, 50 W. King St., at 5:45 p.m.

Also, he said, moving forward the neighborhood where walks are taking place will be announced on the police department's Facebook page, so walkers can simply meet in the chosen area. The walks will happen in all the city's neighborhoods, including blocks where there's very little street crime, because all neighbors are important, he said.

Others involved too: Muldrow said other agencies and organizations have signed on to join in the walks, including the Black Ministers' Association of York, the York County District Attorney's Office, the county probation office, the York City School District and even York City firefighters, who can answer questions about code enforcement and property safety.

York City School Police Chief Michael Muldrow, right, walks outside William Penn Senior High School with Lt. Quinn Johnson, left, Officer Todd Tyler, and  Officer Bryan Einsig, Tuesday, October 6, 2020. Muldrow has been tapped by Mayor Michael Helfrich to be the new York City Police Commissioner.
John A. Pavoncello photo

The walks are just one way to get officers out of police cruisers and into neighborhoods on foot, where they can build relationships and a rapport with individuals, "to get them to trust us enough and trust the process, and believe that justice can be obtained through legal channels and not on the street," the commissioner said.

Residents will be able to ask questions, lodge complaints and simply talk with officers and other officials, he said.

"One person speaking out can be targeted," he said. "But when it's the whole neighborhood saying 'we're tired of this' … there's power in that."

It's the kind of power that makes blocks safe for children to ride their bicycles or walk to basketball practice, Muldrow said — where stray bullets don't come through people's windows.

Capitalize on momentum: People are ready to get involved, he said.

"I feel it in the energy of the community and the people I talk to," he said. "It's a different time now. This is the time for us to capitalize on that momentum."

More:Supporters came out in force to welcome York City's new police commissioner

York City's homicide detectives have an "astounding" clearance rate of about 70%, which is far higher than most cities, Muldrow said.

But detectives' clearance, or "solve" rate, for nonfatal shootings is only about 9% to 11%, he said — despite the fact that detectives are working just as hard on those cases.

 "When it's not fatal, we're not getting as much compliance as we need from the victim, and witnesses are less likely to assist," he said, adding he hopes to change that with community buy-in.

The GVI program offers tools to help spur community interest and involvement in reducing gun violence and other crimes in their neighborhoods, but until now York City hasn't focused on that component, the commissioner said.

York City School Police Chief Michael Muldrow has been tapped by Mayor Michael Helfrich to be the new York City Police Commissioner.
Tuesday, October 6, 2020.
John A. Pavoncello photo

"We're still not capitalizing on the program to its fullest capacity," Muldrow said.

He said it's time to focus on the side of GVI designed to help communities prevent and deter crime before it happens.

About GVI: 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.

More:Federal U.S. Attorney Freed discusses York's fight against opioids and gun violence

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

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

So to reduce violent crime, law enforcement has to identify and target "influencers" in that small group of people who are often involved in gangs or the drug trade, or both. The influencers targeted during call-in presentations then carry a message back to their associates from the York community: "We will stop you if you make us. But we'd rather help you, if you let us."

Those willing to make a fresh start and leave street violence behind are offered comprehensive support by the community organizations involved in GVI. Those who commit gun violence — as well as their fellow group members, neighbors and family — get special attention from police.

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

>>Like what you’re reading? Not a subscriber? Click here for full access to The York Dispatch’s hard-hitting news, local sports and entertainment.