Mayor Thompson sets up Harrisburg "safety zones" - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County

Mayor Thompson sets up Harrisburg "safety zones"

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Barricades are set. Multiple police officers are in place. Beefed-up security in an Allison Hill neighborhood is Mayor Linda Thompson's answer to recent Harrisburg homicides.

With a few screeches of plastic zip-ties, white signs with bold black lettering went up along 19th and Bellevue Streets. Residents quickly realized they were now under a 'Neighborhood Safety Zone.'

Flanked by Harrisburg Police Chief Pierre Ritter and ranking captains, Mayor Linda Thompson unveiled her new program Monday morning.

Thompson explained she was upset to hear another man was murdered over the weekend - Harrisburg's fifth homicide of 2013.

Police said they arrested 17 year-old Justin Clark and 18 year-old Jonathan Ramsey for the murder of 20 year-old Robert Burris. Police said Burris was shot in the head after 7:30 Saturday evening near 14th and Vernon.

Another man was shot at the same location Sunday evening. Police said 20 year-old Jonathan Reid is recovering from those injuries.

Two suspects, 19 year-old Tyya Barnes and 18 year-old Shane Holloway, were arrested over the weekend in connection with the city's fourth homicide this year.

Police said both men shot and killed 20 year-old Cortney Jackson in an alley off Forster Street last weekend.

With 12 homicides in all of 2012, Thompson explained she had to do something. The mayor voiced a stern warning.

"If you are a criminal you will be pursued," she said. "You will be busted. You will be taken off the streets. You will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

Around 2 p.m. Monday afternoon, police setup barricades at 19th and Chestnut Streets as well as 20th and Bellevue. A large mobile command unit parked along Bellevue to give officers a station to work out of.

One woman who spoke with abc27 did so only if her identity was not revealed. The woman explained she was fearful of any retaliation from "drug lords"and "crime kingpins" in the area.  

"Police presence is a good thing, but starting here in this direct area...I don't think so."

In light of recent homicides and shootings on 14th Street, the woman thought police should've started in that neighborhood.

Over the next week around 19th and Bellevue, Thompson said about 10 officers will canvass the area around the clock. Traffic patterns will be changed to help support police activity. She explained employees from Public Works will also go door-to-door and hand out citations for trash violations.

Thompson said the 19th & Bellevue was a starting location, but troubled neighborhoods around the city would eventually get the same treatment.

"The goal is to keep them on the run and ultimately run them out of the city."

The woman who said she's lived in Harrisburg for 13 years was skeptical that that philosophy would work.

When asked if the Mayor's program would help, she replied, "No, because the dealers and the customers are going to move right around here. Wherever the police move they'll move onto the next spot."

Thompson admitted neither she nor the police can fight crime alone. The mayor pleaded with community leaders and citizens alike to step up and take back the streets.

"Search and see wherever possible they may be hiding a gun inside that house. And, please by all means turn that gun in," said Thompson. "You have nothing to fear. You are capable of changing your community street-by-street...neighborhood-by-neighborhood."

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