York City Police: Shooting surge similar to what other cities saw last spring

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
York City Police Capt. Daniel Aikey speaks at a police public forum on Monday, May 3.

York City Police say it's unclear what is fueling an ongoing surge in shootings that began last week, but the timing seems similar to influxes in crime that other cities experienced last year.

In the past week, there have been six reported shootings in the city. Most recently, on Monday night, a 41-year-old person was shot at a residence in the 300 block of Smyser Street and died at WellSpan York Hospital. It was the city's third homicide of the year.

Capt. Daniel Aikey, speaking at a public forum Monday evening, noted that there's often no rhyme or reason to surges in shootings. But the recent influx could have to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Our city was very fortunate compared to a lot of the crimes that rose during that time period across the nation," Aikey said. "And now we are starting to see that happen with us."

More:Police: 3 injured in two shootings Tuesday evening in York City

More:York City Police: 41-year-old shot to death Monday

During the pandemic last year, cities nationwide saw a surge in violent crime as COVID-19 swept through communities and hampered local economies. Homicide rates specifically were 30% higher in 2020 compared with 2019 in a sample of 34 U.S. cities, according to researchers with the National Commission on COVID-19 and Criminal Justice.

While York City didn't follow that trend, Aikey said, recent shooting data shows this year might be different.

York City already saw a record-breaking 14 shootings in the first quarter of this year, which ended March 31. That was a 75% increase over the first quarter of 2020.

Aikey on Monday said there had been five shootings in April, which already puts the city on pace to top the first quarter. The most recent data available was as of April 27.

"Whether it's a cycle we're going through at this point in time, I can't tell you that," Aikey said.

York City Police investigate the scene of a shooting in the 500 block of North Pershing Avenue in York City, Tuesday, April 27, 2021. The shooting was reported just after 10 a.m. Dawn J. Sagert photo

There have been at least three more shootings in the city in addition to the data Aikey presented on Monday. There was also a shooting Friday night in neighboring Spring Garden Township. There were no injuries in the Spring Garden shooting, but police found 70 shell casings and impounded two vehicles.

Under Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow, the York City department has attempted to curb gun violence and other crimes in multiple ways, he has said.

Officers have focused on getting guns off the streets and spending more time walking in neighborhoods to better connect with the community.

In April, officers patrolled the streets on foot for a total of 213 hours and confiscated 58 firearms, according to data that Aikey presented on Monday.

The city is now exploring a citywide surveillance network based on the work done by the Lancaster Safety Coalition, a nonprofit organization that oversees 170 cameras in Lancaster City.

A feasibility study to see if York City residents want the system and to gauge its potential efficacy is underway. The study is expected to be completed in mid-June. 

City officials have said more cameras would reduce crime and create a safer environment, but some residents and civil rights groups have voiced privacy concerns and alleged the program would target minorities.

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