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Firearms and Violent Crimes

Gun data: Firearms and violent crimes

A large percentage of violent crimes are committed with firearms.

More than 70 percent of all non-negligent criminal homicides reported in Pennsylvania between 2007 and 2016 were committed with a firearm, according to Pennsylvania State Police Uniform Crime Reporting System.

Of the violent crimes committed with firearms, many are perpetrated by people who have been deemed not to possess or own firearms, according to court records.

Both of the recent high profile alleged murder cases in Cumberland County involve shooting deaths and defendants deemed not to possess a gun.

Robert Anderson, 40, of Carlisle, who is accused of shooting and killing Daniel Harris inside the Haines Stackfield American Legion in Carlisle in June 2016, and Christopher Jaquell Williams, 26, of Harrisburg, who is accused of shooting and killing Rhyhiem Hodge inside Hodge’s home in November, had criminal records that preclude them from owning or possessing firearms.

Anderson and Williams are charged with first-degree murder and could face the death penalty, according to court records.

In 2016 alone, more than 1,000 charged robberies and assaults with a firearm statewide involved defendants who were prohibited from having a gun, according to an analysis of court records conducted by The Sentinel. More than 100 charged criminal homicides in which a firearm was used involved a defendant prohibited from having a gun, The Sentinel found through a search of charging records.

However, very few people are criminally charged for providing guns to people who are not supposed to have them, even when the gun is used in an act of violence or murder.

Only 26 people across the entire state of Pennsylvania were charged with delivering a firearm to a person prohibited from having a gun, according to court records. Even fewer of those people are held criminally liable for the violent crimes committed with those guns as allowed by state law.

The Sentinel found only two cases statewide in 2016 where a defendant was charged with both providing a firearm to a prohibited person and a violent crime or conspiracy to commit a violent crime.

Robberies involving firearms have dropped from more than 8,000 reported incidents in 2007 to less than 5,500 in 2016, according to State Police UCR.

Assaults and homicides, however, have fallen much more slowly, dipping slightly during the middle part of the last decade before rising back to nearly 2007 levels in recent years.

This is only a snapshot.

Overall trends in violent crime in America have fallen precipitously since the mid-1990s, when the country’s murder rate eclipsed 10 per 100,000, according the FBI. Even with a rise in murders in 2015 and 2016, the murder rate in the United States remains less than half of what it was roughly 20 years ago, according to the FBI.

Philadelphia, Allegheny, Delaware, Sullivan and Dauphin counties held the top five spots for firearm assaults and robberies per 100,000 people in 2015, while Forest, Tioga, Centre, Mifflin and Huntingdon counties were the lowest, according to State Police UCR and U.S. Census Bureau data.

Cumberland County was near the middle with roughly 21 firearm-related assaults or robberies per 100,000 people. This was lower than neighboring Franklin County at 30 per 100,000, and Perry County at roughly 39 per 100,000 people.

Henna 'crowns' bring cheer to cancer survivors

Ruchi Patel knows only too well the pain of those who have been touched by cancer.

A form of the disease has affected several members of her family, including an aunt and a grandfather. Because of her family history, the wife and mother of two felt the need to get screened herself. The visit to the doctor may have resulted in a clean bill of health, but also produced an idea to help those who were not so fortunate.

“At the time of my consultation, the doctor saw that I had henna on my hand and asked about it, so I left a card and returned later with more cards,” said Patel, who has been practicing henna professionally for six years and as a hobby for 20.

The Mechanicsburg resident said she’s been enamored with henna since she was a girl in India, where the art is widely practiced. When Patel discovered that many women who lost their hair due to chemotherapy were excited by the idea of a henna “crown,” she decided to offer the service for free.

This form of body art, also referred to as mehndi, has its roots in ancient India and is safe and doctor approved, according to Patel.

“Henna is a plant from nature that grows in a warm environment,” she said. She mixes henna powder with lemon juice and essential oils, like tea tree oil. “This releases the dyes, which are all natural,” she said.

Patel said the “ink” has a cooling effect on the body, which is one of the reasons it is so popular in countries with warm climates. The process involves piping the pigment, which has a consistency of thin cake icing, with a narrow “cone,” which is similar to a pastry bag.

Barbara Myers learned of the art form during a chemotherapy appointment last October. “My nurse gave me a card and explained that Ruchi offers the service for free for cancer patients who lost their hair.”

The Carlisle resident said she jumped at the chance, not because it was complimentary, but rather because she wanted to do something special to celebrate her final treatment.

“Having a henna crown made me feel like I was back in control again,” Myers said, adding that she noticed a change in behavior among those she encountered. “People I passed in public no longer looked at me with sympathy, or nervously avoided eye contact. Instead, they smiled when I met their gaze, and I received many compliments.”

Myers recounts strangers walking up to her and asking questions out of curiosity. “It certainly was an ice breaker.”

Florence Barth, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, heard about Patel and decided to undergo the hourlong procedure in lieu of wearing a wig.

“I was already adjusting everything, a wig was just one more thing I didn’t want to have to adjust,” the Lebanon County resident said.

When Barth returned to work, her co-workers were enchanted. “They just loved it; it was fun, creative, and for me it represented freedom. I would say hi to people and they would do a double take — then they would laugh,” said Barth, adding that it removed the stigma attributed to hair loss.

The pigment eventually fades, which is a plus for those who want a temporary pick me up. Barth said her “tattoo” lasted about three weeks. “I figured why not do this while I have the opportunity,” she said.

Patel, who creates the crowns in her home, offers a seemingly endless variety of designs ranging from the simple to the complex, like an ornate bridal adornment, which can take up to eight hours.

Sharing her art with others has been very fulfilling for Patel. “What I love most about it is that it makes people smile. Most ladies love henna; it gives them a good feeling and it makes them happy, and if it makes people happy, it makes me happy as well,” she said.

To view more designs by Patel, visit her website at

5 Questions
5 Questions: Vinette focuses anti-terrorism efforts at Carlisle Barracks

Anticipating the worst is part of the job for Tom Vinette.

Vinette serves as the antiterrorism officer for Carlisle Barracks, and his work recently earned him recognition as the Carlisle Barracks Civilian Employee of the Year for fiscal year 2017. He was singled out for his performance as the director for the full-scale exercise held in July 2017. He developed the exercise plan, briefed participants and coordinated a training workshop featuring an external instructor.

Q. Your military service brought you to Carlisle as an MP. What drew you back here after retirement?

A. My daughter, Elizabeth, and my parents were what drew me back to the area. Carlisle was my home prior to my military service. I finished seventh and eighth grade at St. Patrick School, while it was still located on Pomfret Street downtown, then attended Trinity High School until 1983. My father Col. (USA, retired) William L. Vinette, and mother, M. Jane Vinette, both of whom have passed, moved to Carlisle in 1977 from the D.C. area, after my father’s time in the Army and federal service. My father then worked for a short time in the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. My mother spent her time volunteering at Carlisle Barracks Thrift Shop. Both my father and mother were active in St. Patrick Parish.

I was assigned to Carlisle Barracks three times during my military police career and was able to retire here. It has been home for quite some time. The time I had with my parents in their later years was priceless. Being close to my daughter, now 21, through her school years was also just as rewarding. Balancing all of that would not have been possible had I taken a job elsewhere.

Q. Generally speaking, how has security changed on installations like the Carlisle Barracks since your service as an MP?

A. There has been a major shift in security and it continues to evolve. Growing up around the barracks from 1977-1983 then coming back to work in the police field, I saw the changes take place. I was here on Sept. 11 of 2001, working as the MP platoon sergeant. The paradigm shift after the immediate response (to 9/11) was tremendous. The active military police soldiers were assigned back to war fighting elements within the MP Corps, and the security forces here were either contracted or federal civilian employees. Both were professional and cared for the work they performed at Carlisle Barracks. The threat of terrorism, in all of its various forms, will continue as will the threat of violence, shootings or other criminal activity and natural hazards such as tornadoes, floods or heavy snow. It’s my job to anticipate the events and plan accordingly for the worst case events.

Q. What does the anti-terrorism officer at Carlisle Barracks do?

A. As the anti-terrorism officer for Carlisle Barracks, I ensure that the workforce remains aware of individual safety and preparedness for criminal and terroristic threats by suggesting and promoting different ways to protect families, employees and service members who live and work here.

Q. What’s the most rewarding part of your service over the years whether in the Army or as a civilian?

A. Over the last 34 years, there are three rewarding events. My deployment to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Storm while assigned to the 204th MP Company, Stuttgart, Germany. From 1999–2001 I was a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, where I trained new soldiers in basic combat and Military Police skills. More recently, in July 2017, planning and executing the full-scale Active Shooter Exercise at Carlisle Barracks. That event involved the entire community inside the fence and tested our integrated response with our counterparts from the Cumberland County Emergency Operations Center.

Q. What’s your favorite thing to do at the barracks?

A. There is really no one thing, at Carlisle Barracks, that I would call my favorite. The whole community provides really great events and conveniences.