More work to do in lowering local homicides

York Dispatch editorial board

It is not the type of record York County wants to be setting.

Last year saw more countywide homicides than ever before: 28. Not surprisingly, the majority of them, 22, took place in York City. Even less surprising: All but five occurred at the barrel of a gun.

It’s hard to argue with York City Mayor Michael Helfrich that “this past year was just horrific.”

County Coroner Pam Gay said she plans to address gun violence in her annual report, due out later this month. York City Police Capt. Daniel Lentz points out that, overall, gun violence in the city was down slightly last year, despite the prevalence of gun-related homicides.

York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow addresses recent gun violence, Operation Call-Out and the community during a press conference held at City Hall in York City, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert photo

County leaders clearly need to continue efforts to accelerate the downward trend in gun violence. And, to their credit, a number of positive steps have been taken:

  • The York City Police Department swore in a dozen new officers this month. The diverse mix of new recruits, which brings the department to 111 officers, were brought on specifically to help tackle violent crime.
  • Programs like the city police department’s Group Violence Initiative, which tackles gun-related and other violence through community outreach efforts, are vital in the battle against homicidal crimes.
  • The department’s Violence Intervention Unit has been successful in getting dozens of guns off the streets in the past year.
  • Solid police work, like the traffic stop last week that resulted in the arrest of a suspect in a fatal shooting last September, can never be overstated.
  • Helfrich said the city is seeking funding for additional policing tools, such as a device that alerts police where gunshots are occurring.

All necessary tools. But while elected leaders and law enforcement do their part to reduce homicides, the public has an important role to play as well.

Homicides in York County over past 12 years

A greater willingness by residents who know the identities of those pulling the trigger to alert authorities would go a long way to assisting police in getting not only guns, but those who use them to commit violent crimes, off the streets.

Too often, however, a “no-snitch” mentality impels even victims of shootings to refuse to cooperate with police, protecting those wielding illegal firearms. This misguided tendency is counterproductive to public safety. It is the city’s neighborhoods, families and children that should be protected, not those who terrorize them.

Police must also continue to exploit the vast trove of information that is shared, sometimes inadvertently, on social media.

City police made a number of arrests on gun and drug charges earlier this month after the suspects broadcast their misdeeds online. The social media posts, which were brought to authorities’ attention by the public (kudos!), paid off big time. Police executed search warrants that uncovered two and a half pounds of marijuana, 170 grams of powder and crack cocaine, 19 grams of heroin and three firearms, one of them illegal.

“You are not going to brag about the violence on social media in our town,” warned York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow.

Well said! We trust the department is backing up those words by redoubling efforts to monitor social media, including less populated chat rooms and the like.

Adding police officers, broadening programs and increasing penalties are necessary tools in reducing the county’s record-setting homicides. More public cooperation and increased surveillance of social media will augment those strategies and make for a safer, more stable community.