HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Efforts to improve police response time began in Harrisburg; crews demolished the old Allison Hill precinct to make room for a new one which officials say will be staffed 24/7, allowing more officers to be on foot within the community.
Officials say Allison Hill is the most densely populated neighborhood in Harrisburg, and it’s poverty stricken. Community leaders say a new precinct is a step in the right direction for the community, and it could spark more positive change.
“What you have now is not just talk or conversation; you actually have some action at this point," said Jarvis Brown, the Outreach Coordinator for Neighborhood Revitalization in Allison Hill. "Any action is good."
The former Harrisburg police precinct in Allison Hill turns to rubble as neighbors watch.
“I believe we have to work from the bottom up, but we can’t do everything by ourselves," said Shirley Blanton, President of the South Allison Hill Homeowners Residence Association.
Both Blanton and Brown live in Allison Hill.
"This isn’t about having a police state or having people standing on the corners. This is about the local police getting to know our neighbors, getting to know our children, and people feel more comfortable interacting with our local police force," added Brown. “Police can have other jobs as well. You know, interacting with the kids, you know, interacting on a community level, and that’s what this is about."
With nearly 500 vacant homes within Allison Hill, the construction of a new building, especially one with a community-driven purpose, is exciting, some believing it could renew pride throughout the area.
“People in this community used to feel nobody cares, and because nobody cares, they can do whatever they want… this is the image we’re trying to change," added Blanton.
Though neighbors welcome the additional police presence, some say it’s not all about making arrests and that neighbors still need to be proactive in order to make it a safer place.
“When you combine that with the will of the community, that’s a very powerful force. That allows people who do not mean the community, well, to think twice about what it is," said Brown.
Officials say the precinct will be manned 24-7 with officers once more are hired by the city, and again, neighbors anticipate the changes to come. A spokeswoman for the Mayor says the former substation was in deplorable condition, and it was more cost effective for the city to demolish it than to renovate. Currently, there's no firm completion date for the new police center.
Officials say they will only work on demolition during the day so not to disturb the community as much. The demolition of the building could last a few weeks.