YORK, Pa. — The fight to end gun violence continues across the city of York as police officials and community leaders took to the stage at Stillmeadow Church to announce a brand new initiative.
The "Violence Intervention Unit," which begins patrolling today, was created to combat, what York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow calls, "an epidemic of senseless gun violence” in the area.
"Using proactive, precision policing strategies, aimed at getting guns out of the hands of would-be shooters and deterring violent crime," Muldrow said, "every gun seized and every would-be shooter taken off the street, represents lives saved and families not heartbroken by the loss of a loved one.”
The unit, a group of current York City police officers who volunteered to be a part of this new group, will deploy throughout the community using a special hotline to field calls and respond to "in-the-moment" situations.
This, Muldrow said, is a major change that will help cut out the "middle-man" of calling 9-1-1 and quicken response times when it comes to reporting violent crime. The number for the unit is 717-676-1238.
Detective Andrew Shaffer, who will lead the unit, notes that this group will be not be responding to service calls, but rather focusing their efforts on, "the guys we know are the shooters. We’re not worried about the guys smoking a little weed on the corner...or the guy littering - that’s not who were worried about," Shaffer said.
"This is precision policing based off confidential sources we receive, based off intel from the prisons, and based off intel from social media – those are the people that we are targeting.”
Lieutenant Daniel Lentz, chief of staff of the York City Police Department, says the city has seen a decrease of non-fatal shootings from 2020 to 2021. There were 64 non-fatal shootings, an approximate 11% decrease to 57 in 2021.
Currently, Lieutenant Lentz says the number of non-fatal shootings is the same this year as they were in 2021, six, with homicides being up one compared to last year during this time.
State officials have worked to end violence for the past several years and just this past month, Governor Tom Wolf announced the distribution of millions of dollars to combat the issue.
Today, Commissioner Muldrow noted that his team is currently working with the Governor to increase funding to this specific unit and eventually to bring on more officers to expand its reach.
Through the American Rescue Plan, $15 million was granted to continue the work of the Pennsylvania Commission for Crime and Delinquency's (PCCD) Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention program.
"This investment is one piece of the puzzle, but we also need to address the systemic and structural issues that cause inequity and harm in our society," Governor Tom Wolf said in a press conference last month.
Less than one week following this announcement, Governor Wolf announced $23 million of grant funding provided by the PCCD which would be headed towards 25 projects to stop gun and group violence across the Commonwealth.
Two million dollars of the funding was allocated to York County, the only county to receive grants in the South Central Pennsylvania region.
The Wolf Administration says these funds will go towards the identification of at-risk youth, connection to substance use disorder resources, mental health, mentorship, and community-based services.
The administration says the 2022-2023 budget will propose additional support for violence prevention and reduction and furthermore, law enforcement.