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City Officials Link Rising Homicide Rate to Drug Trafficking

Between this weekend’s fatal shooting in the Strip District and the body of a deceased man found in Northview Heights on Sunday, Pittsburgh has now seen 44 homicides in 2014.

That number already surpasses the 40 homicides in 2012 and approaches last year’s 46 homicides. City officials are now worried that homicides could reach record-breaking levels this year.

Mayor Bill Peduto, along with Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar and Acting Chief of Police Regina McDonald, held a news conference Monday to address the rising murder rate.

“It seems to revolve around the drug trafficking trade, and a lot of this violence is being perpetrated by those who are competing with each other for the finances associated with that trade,” Bucar said.

Peduto said the neighborhoods hardest hit by the violence include Homewood, the Hill District, Northview Heights, and West End and Hilltop neighborhoods.

Police Zone 5, which stretches from the East Hills to Bloomfield and north to Stanton Heights, has seen 17 homicides this year. McDonald said 13 new Pittsburgh Police officers, who were sworn in on Friday after an accelerated training program, will be assigned as beat cops in the zone.  

“The idea is for them to get to know the community and for the community to get to know our police officers,” McDonald said. “What we’re trying to do is reinforce our philosophy of community-oriented policing with these young officers.”

McDonald said the officers are all veterans who joined the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police from departments in other towns and cities, and that the assignment in Zone 5 is temporary until the full class graduates in January.

The acting chief also said the bureau is putting additional resources into solving the outstanding murder cases. Of the 44 homicides committed this year, 18 have been solved.

“We recently assigned three additional detectives to homicide to assist them, and they have the ability to pull resources from the major crimes and narcotics and vice squads if they need it,” McDonald said.

Both McDonald and Peduto implored community members to come forth with any information they may have about violent crimes in their neighborhoods.

“Tomorrow is National Night Out (Against Crime),” Peduto said, referring to the three-decade old initiative meant to help people reclaim communities ravaged by violent crime. “It’s a way for us to celebrate the power we all have in reducing crime within our own community, within our own neighborhood, within our own street.”