As of 2013 York Pennsylvania was ranked 18th out of 1300 of the most dangerous cities in the United States. The site Neighborhoodscout.com uses the data based 25,000 or more people and is based on the number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents reported to the FBI in 2011. Violent crimes include murder, rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault.
York has more violent crimes per capita than Harrisburg and the city of brotherly love Philadelphia. In most years York more than doubles the national average rate of all violent crimes. So the question has to be asked what makes this small city so violent?
York city officials will say that the crime rate is down, and the lowest that is has been in the past 10 years. Which may be the truth based off whatever website you visit to pull your information, but this doesn’t account for random acts of violence.
In the 1980’s and early 1990’s a large amount of violent crimes took place in the heart of the city. In most cities during this time saw a huge spike in violent crimes due to drug use and poverty levels being the worst in the city’s history. During this some of the most brutal cases that saw women murdered and rapes took place along the Codorus Creek.
The Codorus Creek is a 42.4-mile long body of water affluent of the Susquehanna River in York County. Some parts of the creek are great where most people love to go boating and fishing. The Codorus State Park in Hanover, PA is a great summer attraction with it’s swimming, camping and hiking.
My earliest memories of the Codorus Creek from being a small child was that it smelled awful. When it would rain in the summer It seemed that the smell carried its way along the city street, and no matter the weather the water was always looking brown and filled with trash that people would dump in there. I remember seeing people in a boat off the Market Street Bridge, and would wonder why someone would go into the water that looked and smelled that way.
Aside from the appearance and odor of Codorus Creek, York City carries a violent history with it. No matter what they say you can’t escape the summer of 1969. The riots created an ugly stain of racism and violence that city would like to forget.
For years the rumors ran rampant about who did what and the reasons behind it. The past was repressed for 30 years until the York Daily Record brought the past back to the light. In the year 2000 the paper begin investigating the riots, not everyone was happy to revisit the past.
During the time of the riots it sparked two of the most infamous murders in the history of the city. The first, being the murder of Lillie Belle Allen from Aiken, South Carolina who was in York visiting family. She was gunned down on the railroad tracks on Newberry Street apparently being mistaken for someone else. The second was the murder of York City Police officer Henry Schaad, who was gunned down while ridding in an armored police van called “BIG DADDY”. Officer Henry Schaad is the only York City Policeman to be killed while on duty.
A number of unsolved murders during this time still haunt the families of the victims. During the most heated times of the riots a black man named William “Mutt” Orr was killed while having breakfast in his home as bullets came though his kitchen and entered his heart. York’s most famous resident Loretta Claiborne’s grandmother Anna Johnson was found nude and beaten at the creeks bed in Bantz Park in September of 1969. Neither of the crimes was never really given too much attention, due to the racial tension died down no one wanted to talk about any of the events during this time. It was an easy chance for the city to heal by not properly dealing with the cases. Many others were wounded during this time as streets ran wild that had to be controlled by the National Guard.
Even after 30 years of trying to repress the memory of violence the sins of the past would catch up to all involved. The law was able to handle some while others chose to take matters in their own hands and take themselves out by committing suicide. Rather than face the shame and life in prison.
As the summer of 1969 came to a close the city was looking to roll in the 70’s with a fresh start. They were looking quick to forget the recent events that gave the city national attention. The world was changing around us they put a man on the moon, the Manson family was terrorizing all of California and the music of Woodstock captured the culture. It would seem as though nothing else mattered though, and that was still about 20 years behind the progress of the rest of the world.
It would stay quite for a while until the 1980’s and a new generation grew up and changed the game on the streets fist fights where the past and guns is how you settled petty differences, no more bloody noses and bruised bodies just death and graveyards. People would do anything for money and getting high was all that mattered. Some choose to steal while others choose to kill and leave the streets a bloody mess.