Blocked streets, armed officers and flashing blue and red lights. For the next week, that will be the norm along S. 19th Street in Harrisburg, as city leaders try a new initiative aimed at curbing crime.
Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson rolled out the Neighborhood Safety Zone initiative Monday. Police have blocked entrances to Chestnut Street and Bellevue Road along 19th as the first phase of the program.
Thompson said on Tuesday, code enforcement will be in the neighborhood addressing issues with trash. On top of that, social service organizations will work with neighbors in an effort to reduce overall crime in the area.
“If you are a criminal, you will be pursued. You will be busted. You will be taken off the streets,” said Thompson. “The situation is just intolerable. We will not allow a single neighborhood in this city to collapse into a haven of drugs and illegal gun trafficking.”
The move follows a violent week in Harrisburg, when two more men were found shot to death on Monday and Saturday. Police have charged four teenagers in the two separate shooting incidents. A third man was wounded Sunday evening by gunfire. Police say he’s recovering at the hospital.
While some residents found the scene jarring and unnecessary, others found it to be a welcome inconvenience.
“There’s a lot of children out here playing basketball and just doing their thing out in the streets. And, the bullets will be flying by here sometimes. It’s just uncalled for,” said Cotha Patterson, who lives in the neighborhood.
The mayor ordered a blockade of 6th and Curtin streets in the Uptown neighborhood last year in response to crime complaints among neighbors. It lasted a weekend. Within hours of police bringing down the barricades, police were called to a shooting scene, which they later determined to be an attempted murder.
“Once (the police) take off, it’s up to the people on the block to keep everything secure and keep everything straight and keep everything right,” said Patterson.
Mayor Thompson said 10 officers will work along 19th Street this week. She said next week, officers will shift to Derry Street between 13th and 16th streets.
The mayor said to residents, “Moms, dads, brothers, uncles, you know if your son, if your nephew, if your neighbor is carrying a gun. Let us do the investigation. Let us determine whether that gun is legally registered, and if it’s not we will confiscate it.”