Be confident that safety is priority in Lancaster

LNP’s Editorial Board has called upon city officials to “restore the public’s confidence in the city’s safety.”

Indeed, instilling confidence in the safety, vitality and livability of the City of Lancaster is my most important responsibility. I accept that responsibility without reservation or equivocation.

As mayor, I will continue to do everything government can do to maintain and enhance Lancaster’s safety and its stature as a premier community in which to live or conduct business.

The murder of Nicole Mathewson was a senseless and vicious act, a loss of immeasurable magnitude, a cause of immense grief, and a reason for lasting prayer. Sadly, neither the city nor the rest of the county is a haven from this type of evil. In recent years, communities from Elizabethtown to Drumore have lost neighbors to heinous killers who have invaded the homes of their victims.

At the same time, there can be no denying or minimizing the sudden and unsettling rise in gun violence in the city. The fact that these incidents have so shaken our community is evidence that gun violence is outside the norm of day-to-day life in Lancaster. Be assured that we do not intend to allow this to become the new norm.

Incidents of violence over the recent past, though unrelated, have been perpetrated by a small group of young people, many of whom have prior criminal records or involvement with illegal possession of firearms. In all of these cases, when victims and witnesses have cooperated with police, arrests have been made, warrants have been issued, or suspects have been identified.

We remain committed to aggressive enforcement of existing gun laws. We will be proactive in locating and seizing illegal firearms prior to their use. When a gun is used or seized during the commission of a crime in this city, we will demand high bail and incarceration if a perpetrator is convicted.

There is no one solution to violence and disorder, and a collective effort is needed to keep any community safe. The City of Lancaster is no exception. Those with information about criminal conduct who fail to cooperate with law enforcement allow violence to continue. Anyone with access to a computer or phone can provide information anonymously.

Don’t wait for a crime to occur, and don’t think that you must tolerate disruption in your neighborhood. Residents often say that they don’t want to bother the police with a phone call to report suspicious or disruptive activity. We want and need people to call 911 anytime they witness suspicious or disruptive activity.

Others claim that police don’t respond to calls on a timely basis. In some instances, this may be the case. Police prioritize calls as they’re received and respond accordingly. Please be patient and rest assured that our police bureau strives to provide the best and most reliable service possible.

We will continue to build relationships between city police and the community they serve. As many residents know, the city is divided into 12 sectors or neighborhoods. A map and contact information for each neighborhood sector is posted on the police website. Sector officers are frequent participants in neighborhood meetings, gatherings and church services. In the coming year, sector officers, fire bureau personnel and housing inspectors will join forces and convene meetings in each neighborhood sector.

Finally, city government does not have the resources, the expertise or the moral authority to replace parents, pastors, teachers and other responsible adults who have daily influence over the decisions and the actions of our youth.

These same youth live in a country with relatively easy access to firearms, and an entertainment industry that trivializes human life and glorifies extreme violence. Movies and video games expose young people to repeated violent scenes in which killings occur without remorse, mourning or meaning. Is it any wonder that misguided young people with guns are further desensitized to the consequences of their actions?

Couple this with the sad and unforgivable reality that many of our neighbors are still experiencing the vestiges of hundreds of years of discrimination, racism and poverty, and many of our young people see limited options for a better future. We ignore these realities at our own peril.

The quality of life in Lancaster does continue to improve. Our collective challenge is to make sure that every member of our community shares in that life.

J. Richard Gray, mayor