How an emphasis on community service led to a career with Harrisburg police

Ioannis Pashakis//September 10, 2019

How an emphasis on community service led to a career with Harrisburg police

Ioannis Pashakis//September 10, 2019

Blake Lynch, community policing coordinator for the Harrisburg Bureau of Police has carried a love for community and relationship building into the position he joined last year. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

On Sept. 3, a criminal investigation into a shooting on Harrisburg’s North Sixth Street kept the staff of the Camp Curtin YMCA from getting into work.

Unsure when they would be able to enter the building, the local nonprofit called the Harrisburg Bureau of Police’s community policing coordinator, Blake Lynch.

As the liaison between the bureau and the city’s residents and businesses, Lynch is often the information resource for groups like the YMCA when the bureau has its hands tied with high-priority calls.

“Unfortunately, the things that are quality of life matters, like illegal dumping or parking, can take a while to get to,” Lynch said. “The side of our vehicles say ‘protect and serve.’ My job is to try and make sure that our officers can serve as much as possible.”

Lynch took the call from the Y’s executive director and helped get them an answer from the bureau. He also spoke with local businesses to get video footage of the crime taken by a nearby security camera.

Acting as the bridge between the community and city police has given Lynch such a huge network of sources that it isn’t uncommon for someone say “just call Blake.”

Those relationships are important to Lynch, a Harrisburg area resident that emphasizes community and volunteerism. Lynch is a volunteer board member of the South-Central Pennsylvania sector of the Boy Scouts of America, a member of the board of directors for the Harrisburg-based Hamilton Health Center and a member of the Agency Services Committee for the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

“I feel that we were all created to help someone else if we have the opportunity to do so,” he said. “To have these relationships and to use those to help an organization, help a business leader or help an officer; that is my response to (that opportunity).”

The Central Pennsylvania Food Bank invited Lynch to join its committee two years ago and Joe Arthur, the food bank’s executive director, said that he is one of the food bank’s most engaged partners.

“We need people to trust the food bank and trust our partners and Blake is very good at helping us engage in Harrisburg in a way that brings out both people in need of help and people willing to offer help,” Arthur said.

Arthur, who knew Lynch before he joined the bureau, but said his connections with the city’s police helped form a partnership between the two organizations that didn’t exist before. The department invited the food bank to participate in its annual National Night Out event on Aug. 6.

“The very fact that our organization is working constructively with the police department is really because of Blake,” Arthur said.

It took time for Lynch to learn how to juggle his career, family and nonprofit work. Lynch attributed his ability to balance his life, to keeping himself from feeling forced to do something and being aware of his own decisions.

“Self-awareness is key if you want to serve and help others,” he said. “If it is something you want to do and you find pleasure in it, it will lead you to be more successful.”

Lynch, 31, attended Messiah College for a major in public relations and crisis communications and left the school before receiving his degree. It took him over a decade to find the right career in his field.

Lynch spent years in the hospitality industry, then was hired as the director of development for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Harrisburg, a job he left in 2018 to pursue his current position.

During that time working outside of his field, Lynch learned the importance of coming to terms with rejection.

“You have to go through this process of being slow cooked,” he said. “It’s the meals that take a long time that are what you remember.”

Correction: The story previously mentioned that Lynch was a graduate of Messiah College. Lynch attended Messiah College but left the school before receiving his degree.