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Politics & Government

Amid Surge In Violence, Peduto Calls For Help In Struggling Neighborhoods

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Ariel Worthy
/
90.5 WESA
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto speaks at a press conference on Monday, April 19.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto joined with law enforcement and community organizers to address a recent surge in violent crimes. During a press conference on the North Side, city officials said that there have been 20 homicides this year, a spike of 80% from the same time last year.

Peduto called on corporations to “invest back into the neighborhoods” by offering jobs to those who need the opportunity most.

“We are not going to solve this by just putting more police officers on the streets,” Peduto said. “This is solved by giving people opportunity that they do not have right now.”

But public safety officials acknowledged that police would also be more visible — even as tensions between police departments and Black residents are under stress all across the country.

“The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police will focus their efforts in the areas where there have been the most activity,” said Shatara Murphy, assistant director for community affairs in the city's office of public safety. “This will include proactively patrolling the neighborhoods hit hardest by violence, engaging with businesses and community members in a positive way.”

Murphy announced that the city planned to address the increase in crime by “utilizing additional resources, various strategic partners, and methods known to work … in the past.”

Murphy said officers will be strategically placed in those communities and do more direct patrols in those areas. She acknowledged that those efforts could be difficult, given the current climate of police/community relations.

“If our officers engage and make an effort, and make that commitment, my hope is that the community understands that this was a necessary action, and not because the officer was abusing the power that they were given.”

But Murphy said that while there is no official plan for a permanent job program right now, the city currently offers the Learn and Earn Program, a summer program for students. She said Peduto hoped to expand the program to be longer term to get people in more permanent careers.

In the meantime, Police Chief Scott Schubert said there needed to be trust between police and the community. That's especially true as the trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who has been charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, comes to an end. Police departments are bracing nationwide for protests once the jury reaches a verdict.

“We respect First Amendment assembly and what it means and we’re there to support it,” Schubert said. “But we do understand that there could be violence and destruction, and we have to be prepared for that.”