It was back in June when staff at Tri County Community Action started noticing an uptick in crime in their Allison Hill neighborhood in Harrisburg.
Nationally, they saw a similar issue arise as the COVID-19 pandemic continued, leaving people unemployed, completing school virtually and with more time on their hands.
This is what spurred Tri County and six other organizations to create a plan to increase safety and quality of life for Allison Hill residents.
“In any community, these are natural needs and desires for the place that you live in,” said Veronica Kelly, neighborhood revitalization coordinator at Tri County. “We just want to make that very clear that we value that alongside of all these partners.”
The “South Allison Hill Safety Project” was passed as part of the city’s 2021 budget. Harrisburg gave $103,345 towards the first year of the three-year project.
The project aims to improve lighting, address vacant lots and homes and upgrade security, all while fostering community engagement, said both Kelly and Julie Walter, neighborhood revitalization manager.
A civic engagement organization, Power to the Hill, will lead efforts in trimming overgrown trees that cover light posts and exchanging out old bulbs. They also hope to distribute new LED light bulbs for residents’ front porches.
Tri County will also cut back overgrowth on vacant lots to increase visibility, Walter said.
“We are addressing the physical environment and how that plays into criminal activity being looked at as OK to be done in those locations,” she said.
Over the next three years, Tri County officials said they hope to repurpose two vacant lots, with one due to become a volleyball court with seating. The community organizations will also board up 10 vacant homes each year and cover the boards with murals, Kelly said.
Working with Brethren Housing Association, Tri County officials said they will increase surveillance on Hummel Street. Eventually, they will distribute 50 Ring Video Doorbell security systems for residents in Allison Hill.
Wildheart Ministries will work on creating a virtual neighborhood watch app for the community, as well.
“We want to make sure we are following the trends in the community,” Walter said. “We want to take the interventions to where the data and the community take us.”
The organizations may work with a new crime analyst that will be hired into the Police Bureau in the coming year, she added. This would help them determine what the needs are in the community.
Tri County expressed their desire to work with community members on the Safety Plan throughout the process. They plan to appoint “street captains” who can serve as communication agents for residents on their block in Allison Hill.
Other organizations collaborating on this plan are Tri-County HDC, Harrisburg Housing Authority and the Latino Hispanic American Community Center.
“We are hoping this project can serve as a model for other neighborhood organizations,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said at his budget presentation on Nov. 25.
Ultimately, Walter sees the project improving the quality of life for residents in the neighborhood.
“Residents and organizations are all in to do what they can to improve the community,” she said. “That’s one of the greatest strengths of our neighborhood.”
For more information on Tri County Action Community Action, visit their website.
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