Police say crime is down again in Harrisburg, but some residents don’t feel it

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A new report out Monday shows crime in Harrisburg is down pretty much across the board, but it doesn’t feel like it depending on where you live.

City leaders focus on community policing, the tactic that has officers spend more time in and around the people and places they serve instead of just for the purposes of making arrests.

The numbers presented Monday, they said, show it’s working.

“It’s a lot of bad examples out here,” Kevin Dolphin said. He sees a lot more work ahead.

“The citizens in this community, they don’t feel any more safe,” Dolphin said. As he puts it, he used to be part of the problem where he met us in Uptown.

Now a community activist, Dolphin said the crime stats don’t show the whole picture.

“When they hear gunshots ring out at 2 or 3 in the morning and they have children,” he said of his neighbors, “that really concerns me.”

“No one is satisfied with the current crime rate. We feel we can do much better and we will do much better,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said.

It’s already better than it was. The city says crime dropped close to 18 percent last year compared to 2015, and violent crimes are down about four percent.

That encompassed roughly 80,000 calls for service — 37,000 of which led to investigations, 8,000 of those through the police department’s criminal investigation division — and 4,389 arrests over the year. The numbers include juvenile offenders.

But the number of rapes more than doubled to 71 in 2016. Papenfuse and police Capt. Gabe Olivera said that’s because certain crimes have now been reclassified as rape.

Nonviolent crimes are down more than 30 percent, police said. That decline includes a nearly 40 percent drop in drug crimes.

Last summer, the city also decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, reducing the charge to essentially a traffic ticket. City leaders couldn’t say how much of the drop-off in drug arrests was related to changing the policy halfway through the year.

An additional goal of the law change was also to free up officers to investigate more serious crimes. It also wasn’t clear Monday how much of an effect the change had on the overall crime rate in that respect.

Even more important than those numbers, the mayor and police captain said, was the long-term impact the city is seeing. The numbers show all crime is down almost 30 percent since 2013.

“We can be very, very proactive, but the community needs to be vigilant as well,” Olivera said, adding more people are talking to police when they have information about a crime.

Dolphin hopes they keep it up. “Just like the police department within itself cannot solve the problem,” he said.

He also hopes police reach out to more people like himself — those who have been part of the problem but are focused on fixing it now.

“It’s like a block of ice,” he said. “You just have to keep chipping away at it and keep chipping away at it.”

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