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After 2010 Effort Failed, Pittsburgh Launches New Initiative To Combat Gun Crime

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
The city is launching a new initiative aimed at curbing gun violence after a similar attempt in 2010 fell flat.

Law enforcement officials are attempting another concerted effort to reduce gun crime in the city. The Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, or PIRC, a joint city and federal project, began in 2010, but faded out within four years.

“[We] never had the buy in or the command staff, let alone the officers themselves. The difference is we have an entirely new command staff,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, who was a member of City Council when PIRC was created.

National criminologist David Kennedy, who created the model that led to PIRC, was excited on that day in 2010 when the initiative was launched.

“What happened today in Pittsburgh was electrifying,” Kennedy said.

But Kennedy told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he blamed the Pittsburgh Police Bureau for PIRC’s failure, calling it an “aggressively uncooperative agency.”

“There was a philosophical difference in the way that policing should be handled," Peduto said. "It’s very different today."

According to the mayor, Pittsburgh receiving federal assistance to create and implement its new Group Violence Intervention unit. Peduto said the message to violent groups is similar to that of PIRC.

“If one person acts in a violent way, the entire group is going to be [prosecuted]," Peduto said.

That’s the “stick” according to Peduto, and the carrot.

"Look, we can help you change; we can take you down this other path that’s going to break you away from these guys who are going to destroy your life or you can decided to stay with them," he said. 

So why will this effort succeed while PIRC failed? 

“You now have a police bureau that is engaged with the community and you have to understand the multiple levels of this aren't simply federal and local police,” Peduto said. “It's federal, local police with community, and if community is not a part of this, it doesn't succeed as well.”

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm