OPED: Doing city government's part
Since we’re in the dog days of summer, a baseball expression seems apt. Often, an announcer will laud a player’s action, such as moving a runner over, diving to make a great catch, or making a smart base-running move, by saying, “That won’t show up in the box score.”
The quiet, stoic, wise actions and inactions that move our community, commonwealth, and nation forward are not splashed on high-definition screens or trending on social media.
Too often, the day-to-day essence and baseline of government — providing for the public health, safety, and welfare or keeping the proverbial trains running on time — do not show up in the box scores of media reports, nightly news casts, or even our own annual reports.
It’s virtually impossible to quantify the number of conflicts, fights, injuries, tragedies, fires, deaths, and dollars in property damage prevented each year by public professionals. It’s difficult to quantify the number of quality conversations, meaningful relations, and increased levels of trust and quality of life that are the fuel and results of community policing.
The “unknowns” necessary for democratic society to flourish are the invisible newspaper headlines and silent evening news leads. And the most essential things — peace, love, grace, honest communication, happiness, inspiration, commitment, and civic virtue — cannot be quantified or monetized.
I earnestly thank all city professionals on the front-lines, including our fire fighters, police officers, and public works professionals, for their steady, stoic, effective work to keep people and property safe.
“Numerical knowns” — number of gunshots, deaths, and arrests — take precedence in the public, government, and media consciousness for obvious reasons. It’s our duty, then, as civic leaders to suggest sound, bold, and pro-active ideas and implement sustained and sustainable programs to stem gun violence — one of the paramount issues of our era and one that I’ve been passionate about.
In this summer of national random gun violence, I owe it to the community to give meaningful updates.
First, from day one, our strategy has been to intensify community policing and grow our Neighborhood Enforcement Units because we too recognize that communication, relationships, and trust are the best antidotes to crime.
I also challenged our community to reduce Part I. crimes including murder, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny, arson, and motor vehicle theft to below 2,000 per year.
More than six years later, the results are in: Intensive community policing works. The year 2015 marked the third straight year in which Part I. crimes were below 2,000. We have reduced Part I.crimes from 2,652 in 2008 to 1,744 in 2015. That’s more than a 34 percent decrease.
An indispensable partner in our community policing is WellSpan Health Organization, which has pledged a contribution of $500,000 annually for public safety. Fifty thousand dollars of this goes to South George Street Community Policing initiative, a partnership with York College and York Hospital.
A critical corollary to community policing is quality interactions, such as our awesome annual National Night Out and recent peaceful gatherings to show our solidarity as a community.
Through Take 30s, in which officers are expected to walk 30 minutes per shift, our officers on average complete 100 per week and we continue to strive to take this up a notch.
Our dedicated officers also regularly attend Neighborhood Association meetings, play video games with our youth at Martin Library, and sponsor youth bowling outings.
Second, at a cost of about $100,000, WellSpan has funded body cameras for all city police officers. Body cameras record accurate evidence and encourage all of us to be on our best behavior. They are for the ongoing cause of keeping our people and property safe and deterring crime.
Third, knowing that a minority perpetrate the vast majority of gun violence, we actively have engaged the National Network for Safe Communities, led by national renowned criminologist David M. Kennedy, to implement CeaseFire York.
This will be a group-violence intervention program productively engaging chronic offenders and their circles, funded by contributions and grants. To learn more about this program’s track record of success, read Kennedy’s excellent book, “Don't Shoot: One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America.”
I thank Police Chief Wes Kahley, Coordinator Jim Tice and Edquina Washington for leading this innovative, pro-active initiative, as well as District Attorney Tom Kearney for supporting this effort.
Fourth, we have made concerted efforts to improve our levels of customer service and professionalism. Some $5.6 million in upgrades to our stand alone Police Headquarters on West King Street means greater integrity of our evidence storage and processing system, a stronger security system, renovated locker-rooms, new detective interview rooms, new prisoner cells, and a new training room. Upgrades were made possible through a $5 million grant from the state and $600,000 from WellSpan.
Upgrades also enabled our department to receive long sought accreditation by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. Accreditation helps us evaluate and improve overall performance through best practices and measures of excellence.
We have come a long way as a community and police department, and we know that there is still more work to be done.
With your help, we can make our York one York: indivisible, invincible, and great.
— Kim Bracey is mayor of York City.