Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Town Hall for Justice addresses gun violence and its impact on youth in Harrisburg

Harrisburg activist Kevin Maxson addresses the panel at Wednesday’s Town Hall for Justice.

On a Wednesday night, community members and local officials gathered to discuss the issue of gun violence in Harrisburg.

Held in the Harrisburg High School-John Harris Campus, the “Town Hall for Justice” was fittingly centered around helping the city’s youth, many of whom are touched by the violence.

“We have to stop looking at the other person for the solution,” said Harrisburg School District Superintendent Eric Turman, a panelist at the event. “Taking steps to solve the problem—that’s where it becomes different.”

This was the third town hall in a series of meetings organized by Harrisburg resident Lavet Henderson.

Panelists included Turman, Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo, Magisterial District Judge Sonya McKnight, Pastor Eric Jackson of Heeding God’s Call and community advocate Patricia Reitzi. Each spoke on issues related to their field and work, mainly around problems facing Harrisburg youth and possible solutions.

Turman explained some of the initiatives that the school district is working on, including bringing back middle school sports, increasing after-school programing and installing security cameras in schools.

“I’m hoping that, going into the next school year, you will have solutions for our students,” Henderson said.

Chardo addressed the problem that local police face of people with information about shooting incidents refusing to come forward. He pointed out that the Dauphin County Crime Stoppers system allows people to submit anonymous tips.

A number of residents also spoke of their experiences with gun violence, asked questions and made comments.

Resident Tone Cook suggested more community policing efforts.

“In order to build relationships with the police in the community, they [police] need to come out not just when there’s a problem, but to interact with our youth in a positive way.”

Other residents urged parents to be more proactive in checking in with their children and to seek out resources and help from local groups. Several community organizations were represented at the event to offer assistance, such as Breaking the Chainz, Power to the Hill and Moms Demand Action

In the end, attendees agreed that more needed to be done to help youth in Harrisburg, as well as the importance of community involvement.

“It takes all of us to do this,” McKnight said. “Until we confront a thing, we can never conquer it. So tonight, that’s why we came out here. We have one common goal—our community.”

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