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EDITORIAL: After shootings, let there be peace in York

York Dispatch
A York City Police officer talks with EMT's during a shooting investigation on S. West Street, Tuesday Dec. 22, 2015. It was the second shooting in two hours. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

A spate of shootings in York City over the past few weeks — at least 10 in as many days, with one fatality — are cause for extreme alarm.

Police acknowledge the uptick. They are looking for connections between individual victims and shooters and, although the shootings don’t appear to be closely related, they believe victims are targeted and the violence is related to drug-related activity.

Such is the case in the fatality. DaKeem Dennison, 19, who had recently become a father, was inside a home in the 700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue when as many as four people broke in and shot him and another man, Damon Banks Jr. Banks survived the shooting.

York City shootings concern residents

City Police Lt. Troy Bankert said it's likely the intruders broke into the townhouse at 725 Pennsylvania Ave. because they knew the pair would be there.

"They were looking for drugs and money," he said, and maybe also looking for the two teenagers, who both have drug arrests on their records.

Bankert said the resident of the apartment wasn't home at the time, but both Dennison and Banks were allowed to be there.

“A lot of kids fall victim to the streets,” Dennison’s neighbor told us.

Opinions about how to quell the violence are many and varied. We talked to residents, community activists and city officials about how to make York City a safer place for young people.

There is no shortage of ideas, but it’s putting those ideas into practice — and having them actually work and change lives currently without much hope — that isn’t so simple.

We agree that lack of opportunity, systemic racism and socioeconomic and educational inequity are at the heart of this epidemic.

Selling drugs and joining gangs as an alternative to a strong family and job opportunity makes deadly good sense when you’ve nothing else. But it's also a dead end, figuratively at least, literally in cases like the fatality in York this month. So if there are other options, no matter how out of reach they seem, the young people taking up guns should find mentors. There are people in York who can help them avail themselves of those better options, such as existing educational and employment programs and the like.

But how do we shore up families, balance the inequities, provide education and employment opportunity — and do it now?

Many neighbors told us they want these young people to just put down their guns and settle their differences in other ways. That’s a hopeful notion.

But when you’ve got nothing to lose, what’s the point? What on earth would motivate you to do so?

There are some people doing very good community activism work in York. But until we invest in a foundational and systemic way of changing housing, employment, educational and judicial inequities, we’re going to continue to face this growing epidemic.

We are losing young people, young black men, at an alarming rate. This is unacceptable. It’s unconscionable, and it’s up to those with the means and the political power to change that balance of power.

Not so easy when it means redistributing the power structure to better reflect its community — in the courtroom, on the police force, in the board rooms and on school boards. That means the establishment moves over to make way for new faces, perspectives and ideas.

It means sharing power. Again, not so easy to make happen. But someone needs to take the lead on this now.

Let there be peace in York.

And let it begin with you who hold the power to make the changes necessary to level the playing field.