York City to host gun buyback, replace 8 retiring officers

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

The York City Police Department will begin the process of hiring eight officers to fortify its push to stamp out gun violence in York City, officials announced Thursday, Sept. 21.

The eight officers are being added to the force to negate any understaffing because of retirements of senior officers, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said. Once all are hired, the department will have a full complement of 103 officers. 

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley speaks after Mayor Kim Bracey (center) announced plans to hire eight new officers. Pictured right is York City Councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson. Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. Jason Addy photo.

Kahley was joined by York City Mayor Kim Bracey, Fire Chief David Michaels and Councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson for the news conference a block from Penn Park in an area that has seen at least a dozen shootings since the start of 2016, including a Sept. 13 shooting that left four injured.

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Officials “are in utter disbelief and shock at times at the recklessness of this type of behavior and what it’s creating in our community,” Bracey said of the “continuous acts of senseless gun violence.”

“One crime, one shooting is one too many and totally uncalled for and won’t be tolerated,” Bracey said, urging the York City Council to immediately approve the request for new officers.

People that “we know and people that we love” are on both ends of the gun violence, Bracey said, calling on residents to help police identify the “miscreants” involved in violent crime around the city. 

Social services are available for those who need help getting away from a life of crime. Officials use the Group Violence Intervention initiative to target these people, but without help from residents, police can only do so much, Bracey said.

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“While we know we can’t arrest our way out of this problem, obviously having more police officers, more people on the streets, at this particular time, if no other time, is imperative, and is a step we must take,” Bracey said.

Neighborhood units: From the time they’re hired, It takes 10 or 11 months for officers to hit the streets to patrol, after completing the police academy and going through internal training, Kahley said.

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Once the officers are given their patrol responsibilities, more senior officers will be transitioned into the department’s neighborhood units, which have shown impressive effectiveness in curbing violent crimes, Kahley said.

The York City Police Department ended its neighborhood policing units in January 2016 because of retirements and other personnel matters. The department began relaunching those units in October after hiring additional officers. 

There was a significant drop in crime in the areas with neighborhood units, but there was a “huge spike” when they left, Kahley said. 

The chief said he has once again seen a “huge decrease” in crime in the areas where neighborhood units are now in place.

Gun buyback: The York City Fire Department will host a gun buyback event at 6 p.m., Oct. 27, Bracey announced. 

Anyone who wants to turn in a weapon can visit the department’s station, located at 833 E. Market St., “no questions asked,” Bracey said. 

In return for handing over a gun, officials will be handing out gift cards to the Sneaker Villa on North George Street, Bracey said.