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'Comprehensive Strategy' Needed To Combat Violence In Neighborhoods Like Wilkinsburg

Banjo Brown

Local leaders are responding to last week's deadly shooting in Wilkinsburg, saying communities must adopt thorough, extensive plans to stop violence. Community Empowerment Association president and CEO T. Rashad Byrdsong helped host a meeting in Wilkinsburg last weekend to address some of these issues. 

"We can no longer allow justification of this type of behavior in our community," Byrdsong told Essential Pittsburgh's Paul Guggenheimer.

With the prevalence of social and economic challenges in neighborhoods like Wilkinsburg, he recognizes that violence is not necessarily new, but insists that such incidents as last week's shooting are unacceptable.

He suggests targeting programs toward the young people in those communities, who he believes often fall between the cracks of society. He said he hopes public officials, schools, neighborhood groups and government representatives can find a way to work together to intervene in the lives of these children and teenagers.

"It can't be just about mentoring alone," Byrdsong said. "It has to be a comprehensive, strategic plan that we apply."

Among the many issues plaguing towns like Wilkinsburg, he points to guns, drugs, mental health and lack of education as key elements. He said he hopes leaders will look to invest their resources into making sure young people are getting strong education early and staying in school to develop skills sets necessary for obtaining well paying, sustainable jobs.

After attending Saturday's community meeting, Byrdsong said he sees motivation in Wilkinsburg residents. 

"What came out of that is the determination of residents on the ground to get involved, because we know that the issues that we're talking about have been happening for 25-plus years," he said. 

Looking ahead, Byrdsong wants to bring organizations and leaders from across the region to start a conversation on how to invest in struggling neighborhoods.

For additional perspective on the situation in Wilkinsburg, 90.5 WESA will be producing regular pieces throughout the week.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.