After a difficult week, with two fatal shootings, York City officials look ahead

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Two years into a global pandemic — and following a recent spate of violent crime — Downtown York continues to set its sights on growth.

"Is there more work to be done? I'll be the first to tell you hell yeah," said Jonathan Desmarais, director of Downtown York, "but I'm also here to tell you we have so much to celebrate, so much to share about our collective progress here in Downtown York."

The organization was part of a larger push, starting in 2017, to rebrand the city and encourage the development of small businesses.

"The single most important driving factor that furthers the public's perception of the Downtown York brand is the way it celebrates and spreads the good news about the continued progress of our resilience and creative community," Desmarais said during an update on those efforts Tuesday at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts.

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Even during the pandemic, he said, over 40 businesses opened their doors and other businesses expanded.

Desmarais encouraged the general public to support these small businesses any way they can — by patronizing them and encouraging friends and family to do the same.

Downtown Inc Director Jon Desmarais speaks during Downtown York's spring update at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts in York City, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A co-founder of one of those new businesses shared some advice for those who may be looking to open or expand their business. Jessica Brubaker of Keystone Kidspace encouraged the community to dream big and be brave.

"When we were in the early stages of planning for Keystone Kidspace, we were met with a lot of skepticism," she said. "We can do big things. Our community deserves nice things, our kids and our families deserve nice things. Don't let the fact that something has never been done before discourage you." 

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Brubaker said the community of York has assets like generous investors and donors as well as size that makes anything possible. 

"The pandemic shouldn't derail the incredible momentum that so many in this room helped to create," she said.

Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow, providing an update on the public safety of the city, said that while the city began March with a difficult week — including the two fatal shootings — violent crime on the whole is on the downswing.

York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow speaks during Downtown York's spring update at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts in York City, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

"Nothing's ever going to be perfect anywhere, not in this community or anybody else's," he said. "But the truth is, York, we're doing it. We're getting there, we're making things happen and we're in a good place." 

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Muldrow said major gun and violent crime arrests are up and citizen complaints are down. He also touted initiatives like offering free security cameras to senior citizens, the addition of a second therapy dog, a WellSpan resource officer, the Violence Intervention Unit and the credible messenger programs.

"We truly believe our way is working," he said. "As we get safer, as we get healthier, as we get stronger together, all of York gets better." 

York City Mayor Michael Helfrich speaks during Downtown York's spring update at the Appell Center for the Performing Arts in York City, Tuesday, March 15, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Mayor Michael Helfrich said he could not be more excited by York right now.

"Things could not be brighter for the city of York right now," Helfrich said in his remarks. "I would just ask you all to continue in your efforts. Every one of you is a piece of the puzzle, and we're building this together." 

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.