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City Joins Partnership to Reduce Entertainment District Crime

The city of Pittsburgh is bringing together community groups and individuals to promote the social aspects of the city, while trying to limit the rising crime rate in the city's entertainment districts.

Working with the Responsible Hospitality Institute, the only organization of its kind that uses research to promote safety and vibrancy in a nighttime economy, Pittsburgh will use $100,000 from this year's budget to present a summary of research into improving the South Side, Downtown and Lawrenceville neighborhoods.

Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents the South Side, has long petitioned the Mayor for such a plan that goes beyond simply adding more police staff.

"I remember going out and campaigning on that six years ago, but I'm here to tell you there will never be enough police. That is not the solution. How do you proactively go out and prevent on the front end?" Kraus said.

Kraus believes he has found the answer. The partnership with RHI will produce a summary and recommendation by the end of the year. RHI's Jim Peters said it's less about pouring money into a system, and more about encouraging relationships among community groups to improve the safety while maintaining nightlife.

"[We will find] what could be accomplished within six months using existing resources just by improving communication and cooperation," Peters said.

The South Side Flats neighborhood led the city with 147 violent crimes in 2010. More than 60 percent of all arrests on the South Side were related to drugs and alcohol. Charges ranged from public intoxication and drunk driving to simple assault or disorderly conduct that police linked to alcohol. Half of all arrests fell between 1:00 and 3:00 AM.

Kraus and Peters both agreed such a plan is not an attack or punishment on social life, but rather a way to improve the city's nightlife through improving its safety.

"Being able to be organized in planning a nighttime economy encouraging sociability is really what makes one city more distinguishable from another," Peters said.

Kraus recognized the importance of drawing young people to the region.

"How do we continue to invite students to live in Pittsburgh, locate in residential areas, want to have that alcohol experience which is part of the university experience and yet have a plan to manage that to the highest and best orders," Kraus said.

Peters identified the lack of a serviceable taxi system as one major issue he has seen in other cities that could help Pittsburgh. He explained often crimes happen during closing time hours, when people are only interested in finding a way home.