At a work session on Tuesday, Harrisburg City Council addressed the recent spate of gun violence in the city, discussing a strategy that might offer help.
Council is considering a contract with the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, on behalf of the National Network for Safe Communities at John Jay College, for consulting services to study and combat group violence in Harrisburg.
“This is not the end all be all, but I think it’s an excellent start,” explained Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter.
The organization would study Harrisburg’s street violence, provide a strategy plan and assist with implementation. They would also work on identifying members of violent groups, attempting to speak with them, providing resources to them and assisting those who may wish to get out of the group, according to police officials.
“It’s getting the community buy-in to tell the members we are not going to take this anymore,” said Adrienne Hoffman-Lewis, crime analyst for the police.
The $210,000 contract would be for a two-year period and funded through grant money from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. According to Hoffman-Lewis, it would take three to four months for the strategy to be implemented once the contract begins.
Some council members wondered whether the program would be effective.
“This sounds like it could be promising in some ways, but it also just sounds like a lot of information gathering,” said council member Ausha Green. “What are we going to do with it?”
Council will further discuss the resolution at their next work session.
In other news, annual federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will soon be allocated to local organizations, once voted on by council at the next legislative session.
Harrisburg will divvy up these Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program funds allocated from both the 2020 and 2021 fiscal years. During the pandemic, the federal Department of Building and Housing Development did not allot these funds due to the influx of CARES Act funding that they instead worked to distribute.
The following organizations are recipients of the 2020 and 2021 ESG funds:
- Capital Area Coalition on Homelessness, $50,000
- Christian Churches United, $100,000
- Shalom House, $50,000
- YWCA, $50,000
The following organizations are recipients of the 2020 CDBG funds:
- Justice House of Hope, $84,728
- LHACC, $45,000
- PAIRWIN (Pennsylvania Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Network), $39,220
- Salvation Army, $75,000
- The Worship Academy, $50,000
Additionally, $244,031 will go towards debt service, $425,000 for public improvement/public facilities, $344,746 for housing programs, $200,000 for demolition and $75,000 for the Dauphin County Library System.
The following organizations are recipients of the 2021 CDBG funds:
- Center for Employment Opportunities, $25,000
- AJB Drug & Alcohol, $48,586
- Young Professionals of Color-Greater Harrisburg, $35,000
- The Rock Church, $100,000
- Justice House of Hope, $15,272
Additionally, $240,000 will be used for debt service, $504,600 for public improvement/public facilities, $359,066 for housing programs and $218,000 for demolition.
The city will likely hold a workshop for potential applicants for the 2022 federal housing funds in mid-May, according to Dennise Hill, director of the Department of Building and Housing Development.
Also on Tuesday, council discussed a bill that would require Harrisburg Zoning Hearing Board and Planning Commission meetings to be recorded and shared publicly.
Currently, the meetings are documented by a court stenographer but transcriptions are not easily accessible and can be costly.
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