News

York city shootings map shows trends

Written by Ted Czech, York Daily Record | Apr 9, 2016 11:23 AM

In December, the number of shootings in York jumped into the double-digits, an anomaly for that year, according to York City Police Department Chief Wes Kahley.

The shootings have slowed to a degree so far this year, but remain significant -- there have been 16 between Dec. 1 and April 3, according to York City Police. Another three occurred Friday. They've happened in a number of spots around the city -- though few downtown -- from the East End to the Avenues, even in daylight, on Sundays and on Easter.

A map of the shootings, created by the York Daily Record/Sunday News, shows trends in location, time and circumstance, but that's not the whole story, Kahley said.

The map shows a tight grouping in the city's west end, which might lead an observer to think they are connected in some way. That's not necessarily the case, Kahley said.

"There's nothing there to show us that they're connected," he said.

There's more to know, police say.

Violence in the city -- including violence connected to the proliferation of heroin -- has brought about entities such as the York County Heroin Task Force, and also a Facebook group called York City -- Stop the Violence, led by a committee of residents, including Lettice Brown, 32.

Since its inception last fall, the residents have organized candlelight vigils, and they plan to hold a community event at a city park, she said.

Brown said that in her lifetime, she has seen what she feels is a rise in violence in York.

She follows York incidents by monitoring the York County 911 Center's online log and the Southern Pennsylvania Incident Network on Facebook. She's earned a master's criminal justice and hopes to one day carve out a career as a crime analyst, she said,

"I was born and raised here; this is my city," she said. "Maybe 20 years ago, it wasn't this bad. We didn't have the same worries kids do these days."

Daylight shootings

A look at York's shootings this year indicates nearly an even split in the times of day the incidents have occurred -- from morning, afternoon, evening and overnight.

"The location, the time of day, doesn't matter anymore," Kahley said. "When they see an individual they're looking for, they're going to take advantage."

Brown said she remembered a time years ago when shootings seem to occur only under the cover of night. Not anymore, she said.

"It just seems they're more bolder," she said. "Broad daylight is very chilling. You just never know nowadays."

In addition, women have become targets, where in years past, they were not, Kahley said. In the majority of the cases, the women were victims of domestic violence, he said.

Brown said the people doing the shooting don't have boundaries anymore.

"When women and children aren't safe, there's a problem ... it's scary, very scary," she said.

Federal involvement

Despite York's relatively small size as a third-class city, Kahley has been quick to ask for help from the federal government and its vast resources. In turn, the feds have extended a helping hand to the White Rose City.

"We're still working with our federal partners and the DA's office," he said. "There's cases that we take up to the U.S. Attorney's office to see if they want to prosecute."

Successfully prosecuted cases in federal court typically carrying longer sentences in prison, Kahley has said in the past.

In November, 12 members of York's Southside gang were convicted by a federal jury. The indictment outlined 62 crimes the gang allegedly committed, dating back to 2002.

"Our guys have been making great arrests," Kahley said. "We're just continuing our strategy to get illegal guns off the street and get people who are involved in illegal activity off the street."

York City Police sought help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the Southside investigation because it involved illegal guns and gun violence, and that relationship continues, he said.

"They're naturally the federal organization that deals with firearms investigations," he said.

The numbers

December's spike in shootings in York caused concern among city residents, but Kahley said it has to be viewed in context.

"Our violent crime in 2015 was at an all-time low since 1990, even with our shootings at the end of the year," he said.

In 2014, there were 71 shootings and in 2015, there were 62, Kahley said.

As great as the federal case against the Southside gang was, it created a vacuum that other drug traffickers sought to fill, Kahley said in January.

And that's a lot of what the shooting is. There's a lot of money to be made in cities like York," he said. "There's a little bit of a turf war going on, which is why you see this spike."

West end cluster

One new crime trend is that shootings seem to be less neighborhood-restricted, Kahley said.

"They seem to be more by chance ... they're opportunistic," he said.

Identifying a cluster of shootings is only the beginning, he said. Once it's identified, police must drill down to see if there are any connections, Kahley said.

"Once you identify a cluster, you have to see if they are actually related, by looking at suspects, victims, time, day, place and method," he said.

Also noteworthy in the map is the absence of any clusters in the city's downtown business district, at and near Market Street and George Street.

"I think it's maybe because there's a lot of eyes watching," Brown said. "It's a different culture downtown. It's more expensive to live there ... I'm sure there's more cameras downtown."

Contact Ted Czech at 717-771-2033. 

Report a tip

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 717-846-1234 or 717-849-2219. Anonymous tips can be called in to York County Crime Stoppers at 755-TIPS or sent via text message to "Yorktips" at 847-411.

This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between York Daily Record and WITF. 

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