York City sees record number of shootings in first quarter of 2021

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow speaks at a public forum on Monday, April 5.

There were 14 shootings in York City during the first quarter of 2021, a record-breaking number that Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow partially attributed to the spread of crime throughout the city.

Muldrow detailed the recent uptick in shootings during a public forum in front of about 50 city residents Monday evening at Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene's York City campus.

The number of shootings between Jan. 1 and March 31 marked a 75% increase over the same time period last year.

For the five years for which data is available, the former record number of shootings in the first three months of a year was nine, which occurred in 2018.

"Rather than being confined to one 'high crime area' throughout the community, what we're seeing now is random spikes and popups in neighborhoods that have never been hit with crimes before, like with the Avenues," Muldrow said.

The Avenues is a usually quiet neighborhood on the northwest side of York City. On March 8, a man was shot the 800 block of Linden Avenue and died at WellSpan York Hospital, police said.

More:Public forum on York City surveillance proposal scheduled for Tuesday

More:ACLU: Surveillance network would target York City's minorities

Muldrow noted that as guns continue to flow onto York City's streets, those who acquire them have been active in several parts of the city rather than sticking to one neighborhood.

As a result, he said, groups or individuals with firearms are more likely to clash. And the violence is occurring regardless of the time of day or who might be around to witness the incidents.

During Muldrow's short tenure — he was confirmed as York's top officer last October — police have taken a multi-pronged approach in their attempts to curb the surging gun violence in the city.

The department's officers have significantly increased the amount of time they spend patrolling neighborhoods on foot, and they've put more resources into getting guns off the streets, Muldrow said.

Muldrow last week announced that more than 59 illegal firearms had been removed from the city's streets in a three-month period.

Of those, 19 illegal firearms were seized through an ongoing, multi-agency effort known as "Operation Scarecrow." The operation also identified 18 alleged straw buyers, those who buy something on behalf of another person in order to circumvent legal restrictions.

Multiple audience members lauded Muldrow for his efforts to combat violence in the city, including Trish Weedon, whose son, Wayne Weedon Jr., was killed in Girard Park in 2016 during a shootout.

"With my son being gone almost five years, April 10, I applaud you," Weedon said. "Keep doing the hard work you're doing, Mike. You're making a difference in this community. And I love you." 

Following the meeting, Muldrow said that the recent string of shootings also may give weight to a proposed citywide surveillance network, Muldrow said.

"Right now, the residents of the community are afraid to always have to be the ones to raise their hands to provide testimony in court against these shooters," he said. "If we can get that done through technology, I think the benefits outweigh the negatives."

Since Muldrow first announced the surveillance proposal last month, some have warned that installing widespread surveillance would target the city's minority communities.

The American Civil Liberties Union has asserted that surveillance programs

"increase police interactions with people of color."

If a program were to be implemented in York, officials say it would be operated by a nonprofit organization with a community board, similar to the work of the Lancaster Safety Coalition.

York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow speaks at a public forum on Monday, April 5.

That organization runs a network of 170 cameras in Lancaster City, and its work has been lauded by both Muldrow and York City Mayor Michael Helfrich.

When asked about concerns regarding the impact on the city's minority communities, Muldrow said that his recommendation is to focus on surveilling the entire city rather than specific areas that may have higher populations of people of color.

"It doesn't need to be something that we're targeting any one community, even under the guise of high crime," Muldrow said. "If we're going to do it, just do York. Border to border."

York City residents on Tuesday evening will have the opportunity to share their opinions about the proposed surveillance network that has been dubbed the YorkSafeNet.

Montez Parker, the lead consultant for a feasibility study of the potential program, will host a public forum about the proposal from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Agricultural & Industrial Museum, 217 W. Princess St.

Over a four-month period, Parker said public input will be collected through additional public forums and electronic opinion surveys.

Whether the program is ever adopted is contingent upon the public's response.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.