York City gym owner wants shooters to put down guns, lace up gloves

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

The owner of Stick-N-Move Boxing is disheartened by the deadly violence so far this year in York City, and he plans to encourage combatants to take their beefs off the streets and into the ring. 

"You can't pull a trigger with a boxing glove on," Antwoine Dorm said.

There have been at least 21 shootings in the city since January, five of them fatal. That compares to 11 shootings, including four deaths, during the same time last year.

The first five months of 2016 also saw 21 shootings in York City, although three fewer people lost their lives to the violence compared to this year.

City officials began working on the Group Violence Intervention (GVI) initiative in 2016, prompted by a particularly violent December the year before, when 16 people were shot, one fatally.

More:Police: Two shot in York City within 10 hours

The premise 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, the drug trade or both.

Antwoine Dorm Jr., 11, of York City, participates in a focus mitt drill with his father Antwoine Dorm Sr., at Stick-N-Move Boxing gym Friday, May 20, 2016. Antwoine, who recently won the regional championship in Maryland, qualifies for the Junior Olympics in Dallas June 29 -July 3 and is currently raising money to help him achieve his dream. Amanda J. Cain photo

Those targeted are called in for a meeting with officials and community leaders where they're offered help to end the violence — and a promise of swift action by law enforcement if they fail to act.

York is in the second year of the three-year initiative, and city officials have said it's working, citing a significant decrease in nonfatal shootings in 2017.

More:York City reinforces GVI anti-gun violence message with carrot, stick

But the spike in shootings this year — including two killings on back-to-back days last week — is drawing renewed concerns from community leaders and a search for new tools to end the violence.

Dorm took to Facebook May 23 to announce that his gym might be able to slow the recent spike.

If there is a personal dispute between two parties, Dorm said he would allow them to message him and duke it out in his boxing ring — free of charge. Afterward, the two fighters can "shake hands and go grab a bite to eat," he wrote.

"(Gun violence) has been an ongoing situation, and I've seen that a lot of the violence is between people close to each other," he said. "When my friends and cousins had problems, we got into the ring. It's not to hurt each other; it's just to get the anger out."

It's a healthier way to solve problems, and families won't have to lose loved ones, he added.

Dorm has already received messages on Facebook from potential participants who want to get in the ring to solve their issues. 

Like any occasion before entering the ring, participants would have to sign waivers. It's possible to get hurt, he said, but it's in a controlled environment and is solely for "releasing energy."

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich took notice and praised Dorm's plan.

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich and Interim Police Chief Troy Bankert hold a press conference on recent shootings, Wednesday, April 25, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

"Of course, we would like a city where people can talk out their problems, but if they can't, Antwoine is offering a better solution where no one goes to jail or to their grave," he wrote on Facebook the same day.

Helfrich announced his own plans for decreasing violence the day after, but his message is all peace, no punch.

Helrich announced on Facebook Thursday, May 24, that he plans to hold a "peace summit."

"We are looking to invite families of those that have lost loved ones, people formerly engaged in violence, people working to free themselves from a life that involves violence, and most importantly, those that are engaged in violence now," the Facebook post read.

Helfirch announced the official name of the summit, "The York City Peace and Opportunity Summit," in a Thursday, May 31, news release. It will take place from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, at William Penn Senior High School.

"The goal of the York City Peace and Opportunity Summit is to create an environment where young city residents are able to have an open dialogue about violence in the City of York," the release stated. "Participants will connect with neighborhood leaders, employers and trade schools that promote and enable successful and productive futures."

Employers that wish to participate can email Britta Schwab, program development specialist at Bell Socialization Services in York City, at bschwab@bellsocialization.com. Participants may email questions to mayorsoffice@yorkcity.org