Harrisburg police to implement community outreach efforts to lower violence

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — As the surge in violence and neighborhood shootings continues in Harrisburg, the mayor and police commissioner addressed the public in a news conference on Monday.

Both say aggressive efforts will soon be implemented to lower the violence throughout Harrisburg, and are reaching out to the public for their assistance.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse and Police Commissioner Thomas Carter believe this new approach to community policing will help cultivate stronger relationships between the community and local law enforcement. Additionally, they hope their efforts will build trust, and more importantly, help prevent and solve violent crimes in the city.

From Oct. 16, 2020, to Monday afternoon, Harrisburg police officers have responded to 67 “shots fired” calls throughout the city. Investigators say there have been 24 victims and four homicides since the surge in gun violence began.

“And I think we’re going to be in a better position, as a community, to address some of this with some of the solutions we are proposing and the budget for next year,” Papenfuse said.

The most recent homicide occurred Sunday morning just before 10:30 a.m. after a man was shot on the 300 block of South 13th Street. While investigators have not released any information related to motive, many of the recent shootings have involved young people–some even being considered gang-related.

Police Commissioner Carter says the department will increase patrols, but he continues to reach out to community leaders and organizations for help.

Carter also says since 2016, 1,067 guns have been taken off the streets without any of his officers firing a single shot.

“I don’t give up on people, especially our youth,” Carter said. “I believe that they are worth saving.”

The mayor and police commissioner are investing nearly $1 million in efforts to lower violent crime, including the addition of 12 community service aids to reach out and build trust, and is lead by Community Outreach Coordinator Blake Lynch.

“And the diversity and the complex issues that the city faces and addresses is so needed right now to have people who are reflective of the community serving in a position in which people can identify,” Lynch said.

City council members are expected to vote on the community policing effort after Thanksgiving. If given the green light, the Harrisburg police department hopes to begin hiring for the new role in early January 2021.

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