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Harrisburg mayor: safety zones a success - abc27 WHTM

Harrisburg mayor: safety zones a success

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

"Phase Two" of Harrisburg's Neighborhood Safety Zone (NSZ) initiative resulted in five arrests and the recovery of two illegal guns, Mayor Linda Thompson announced Wednesday. 

Thompson previously described the latest safety zone on Derry Street as the city's "greatest challenge."

Thompson said a .380 and .22 caliber weapon were recovered in the NSZ. She said one of the guns had the serial number filed off and one of the people charged was a former convict who is not legally allowed to carry a firearm.

The safety zones have been criticized for being confusing: last Monday police setup the NSZ around 5:00 p.m. but it was taken down about 90 minutes later. But Harrisburg Police Sergeant Terry Welan, who commanded the Derry Street area between 13th Street and 16th Street, said that's exactly the way it's supposed to be. 

"There was a little bit of confusion with the media. I'm not going to begin to apologize for that," said Sgt. Welan. "If you were confused as a media person ... just imagine a criminal."

While the safety zones seemed like a gamut of smoke and mirrors to residents and reporters, police maintain that unconventional tactics were used to keep criminals guessing.

Thompson said police also handed out 12 traffic citations and two non-traffic citations. The mayor would not say if these results met, exceeded, or did not meet her expectations. Thompson said the NSZ did yield progress.

"That whole element of surprise is really strengthening how we get in there quickly and how we surprise and get more, more people off the streets and more guns confiscated," she said.

Thompson said a handful of drug busts were made. Police charged 11 for possessing drug paraphernalia and eight people for possessing a controlled substance. One heroin and one cocaine dealer were busted with intent to deliver a controlled substance. A few other charges were handed out during the week of March 25 to April 1 according to Thompson.

Weland said the roughest area in town was made a little safer by removing a few violent repeat offenders off the streets.

"These guys don't need to be walking around," he said. "It's not like we're taking candy off of them either, we're taking guns and narcotics, which, if you don't know is a dangerous business."

Thompson said police would not notify the public about future NSZ areas to maintain the "element of surprise" against criminals.

Unlike the "Phase One" NSZ at 19th and Bellevue Streets, Harrisburg Public Works did not hand out code violations. Thompson said code workers would go back out and complete scans of "Phase Two" sometime after a citywide cleanup scheduled for Saturday, April 20.

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