In 1749, future York countians sought aid against ‘Thefts and Abuses…by idle and dissolute Persons’

YC-Police-Services.jpg
This map with overlay, courtesy of 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, shows the various police departments covering York County today. York County separated from Lancaster County in 1749, in part, because of the need for law enforcement west of the Susquehanna River. York vs. Lancaster, Pa: The American War of the Roses still rages and The day west bankers looked forward to tax time and York, Cumberland counties longtime companions.

Who says things never change in Pa.?
And sometimes in the wrong direction.
York County was founded in 1749, in part, because settlers living on the west bank of the Susquehanna River sought sheriff’s protection.
Indeed, the remote parts of future York County – and that was most of it – were known to be places of refuge for “idle and dissolute Persons” who stole stuff and committed other crimes.
Fast forward to today… .


State law prohibits York and other third-class counties from providing police authority.
So, police protection must be provided by state police, individual municipal departments or regional police.
York County uses all three, with the sheriff’s department today acting primarily as an agent for the court system, transporting prisoners and the like.
Representatives of the 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, a smart-growth group, are distributing results of three helpful studies showing that regional police departments cost less than stand-alone municipal police departments and employ a larger percentage of full-time officers.
York County’s founders would not have quibbled with that. In fact, they desired a county-wide police force, no matter the tax load.
With our chopped up mess of police agencies, we should have listened to our forebears in that respect (see map above.) To be fair, York countians have been among leaders in the state in forming regional police departments.
For the record, here is an excerpt of the act of the Colonial Assembly that created the county, according to “Never to be Forgotten”:

“Whereas, a great Number of the Inhabitants of the Western Part of Lancaster County have by their Petition humbly represented to the Governor & Assembly of this Province the great Hardships they lye under, by being So great a Distance from the Borough of Lancaster where the Courts of Justice are held, and the Public Offices are kept; and how hard and difficult it is for the Sober and quiet Part of the Inhabitants of that Part of the County to Secure themselves against Thefts and Abuses frequently committed … by idle and dissolute Persons, who resort to the remote Parts of the Province, and by Reason of the great Distance from the Court or Prison, frequently find Means of making their Escapes; For remedying of which Inconveniences and Relief of the Inhabitants… Be it enacted … .”

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.

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