Two people were shot dead and three others were wounded in five unrelated shootings that occurred this year in the city. All the shootings were outdoors.
Arrests have been made in both homicides, which took place in the 1000 block of Franklin Street on Feb. 13 and at Flanigan Park in the 700 block of Memorial Avenue on July 9.
An arrest has been made in one of the three other shooting cases, a domestic situation in which a woman allegedly shot her estranged husband at the front door of his home in the 1100 block of Memorial Avenue on Feb. 12, the first shooting of the year.
However, before the week ended, a third city shooting occurred, this one in the area of First and Park avenues where a man was wounded in the leg by a shot that came from a passing vehicle about 7:20 p.m. Feb. 16.
"Street violence is something we're always going to have to contend with," city police Capt. Timothy Miller said.
Shootings, like illegal drug use, "seem to come and go in waves," Miller said.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: As 2012 comes to a close, Sun-Gazette reporters take a look back at the major news stories of the year. This series continues daily through Sunday. On Monday, watch for a special photo section, Yearbook 2012.)
That certainly seemed to be the case this year. Following the three incidents in February, the next shooting in which someone was injured did not occur until May 26 when several shots rang out in the 800 block of Center Street. One man, who suffered a non-life-threatening injury, was driven to the Williamsport Regional Medical Center, three blocks away, by his brother. Like the incident near First and Park avenues, the case remains unsolved.
In comparison, between January 2009 and the end of 2011, there were 21 shootings in the city in which someone was injured or killed, according to statistics released by city police.
In 2009, two people were shot dead while four others were wounded. Three people were fatally shot and five others were wounded in 2010. Four of those eight shootings occurred in one six-day period in mid-December, including one of the homicides.
There were seven separate shootings in 2011 that killed one and injured six others.
Miller said police are seeing a lot more firearms on the street these days than when he joined the department 14 years ago.
"People are becoming more and more familiar and comfortable with guns. There is all this stuff in the media of how difficult it is for people to get ammunition and to get weapons. I think some people are panicking that guns are going to be taken away," Miller said.
"People are going in and buying all these weapons," he added
He shared an experience he had when he visited a local gun shop in mid-November that he thought was most unusual.
Off-duty and out of uniform, Miller struck up a conversation with a female customer at the counter.
"She told me she was buying her third firearm in as many weeks," Miller said.
Although it piqued his curiosity, he did not question her.
"Guns are going right out the door. People are buying a lot of guns," Miller said. "I don't know if it's due to mass hysteria. I really don't know the answer."
With more weapons on the street, some gun owners carelessly leave their firearms in unlocked homes and cars, Miller said.
When firearms are not properly secured, "it becomes easier for people with ill intent to get them," he said.
"I think the city of Williamsport is very safe. I based that on my experience as a police officer for almost 15 years. I've patroled the streets. I've read the police reports. I think Williamsport is much safer than what our reputation might indicate," Miller said.
That is not how Jennifer Davis, a 43-year-old mother of five, sees it.
"I don't believe that is true. When I was growing up here, this city was relatively safe. I don't think that is the case anymore," she said outside her home in November.
Davis was home that night in late May when more than half a dozen gunshots riddled her front yard on Center Street.
"One of the bullets hit my trash can," she said.
Six months after the shooting, the yellow chalk marks that police officers made to mark where the bullets landed on the night of May 26 still are clearly visible in front of Davis' home.
"It's been very quiet on the street for a while, and that's good. There have been no more shootings on this block. That makes me feel good for now but, as soon as summer comes, I'm afraid that will all change," she added.
On a recent chilly night, while out on her porch having a cigarette, Davis saw something that really startled her. It was a uniformed police officer walking down the street.
"I was, like, in shock, really surprised. That was a good one," Davis said.
Miller said "we do the best we can trying to be visible. Visibility is a huge thing in trying to deter certain crimes."
Seeing the police officer walking down her street at night certainly pleased Davis. She said she would like to see more.
While she likes to see officers in marked cruisers patrol her neighborhood, she believes an officer walking the beat definitely has a greater impact in deterring criminal activity.
Miller said a strong presence on the street "has a huge impact on deterring violent crime. Being visible tends to keep the dishonest people a little more honest. It keeps them on their guard."
However, if someone clearly has the intent of harming another, they may do it right before a crowd of witnesses.
That is exactly what happened last summer when two men gunned down another while the victim and his brother were playing basketball in Flanigan Park, which was packed with people on the night of July 9. A 17-year-old male and a 22-year-old man have been arrested and are awaiting trial.
Earlier this year, it wasn't gun violence on the street that gripped another city neighborhood with fear, but a different kind of crime - arson.
Between early April and mid-May, there were nearly a dozen arson fires in a 10-block area of Newberry.
"We had a Dumpster, patio furniture, carpeting, a carport, a camper, among other things, set on fire," city fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach said recently.
"Whenever fire is set in an occupied structure, people have something to fear," Heinbach said.
Police and fire officers beefed up patrols in the neighborhood, and residents were urged to leave outside lights on overnight.
No arrests were made and the fires seemed to suddenly stop.
"A lot of times, a person setting fires gets caught up in other criminal activity such as drugs and breaking into cars," Heinbach said. "Why the fires stopped, we don't know. However, we're glad they did."