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Gainey and Innamorato dismiss fears about city police shifts, pledge changes to juvenile justice

Two people stand near a microphone in a crowd.
Chris Potter
90.5 WESA
Sara Innamorato celebrates winning the Democratic primary race for Allegheny County Executive with supporters, including Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey (left) on May 16, 2023.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey has heard concerns about whether the city is adequately staffing police, and whether reducing officers working in the late night and early morning negatively impacts public safety. But he told WESA those fears aren’t reflected by the city’s crime data.

“The data hasn't demonstrated that,” he said, adding that he’s confident in the city’s current police force led by Chief Larry Scirotto.

In February, Scirotto announced a slew of operational changes to the police bureau that set four 10-hour shifts per week. That allowed officers more days off, and reduced the 3 a.m to 7 a.m. shift by about a dozen officers, adding staff to shifts with the most service calls.

Some city leaders, including members of City Council, and police union officials have expressed misgivings about what the decision means for public safety, suggesting that the change could encourage criminals to act during that four-hour period.

But in a wide-ranging joint interview with WESA and Allegheny County Executive Sara Innamorato, Gainey said he trusts the data driving Scirotto’s decisions, which indicate that the city sees most crime between 2 p.m. and 2 a.m.

“We have not seen an increase in crime in the times between 3 to 7,” Gainey said of the late night/early morning shift. “The data has proven to be correct.” He added that violent crime is down overall in the city compared to a spike in rates during the pandemic.

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And though dwindling ranks within the police bureau has been a lightning rod, Gainey and Innamorato stressed their belief that police are just one piece of a larger puzzle.

“There are a lot of ways to make people feel safer than just having an increased police force,” Innamorato said.

“Police are an important component to the ecosystem of public safety,” she added, “but it is really about how you’re programming spaces, how you're getting more eyes on the street in the form of community service workers and folks who are cleaning up spaces and bringing arts and cultures to the streets.”

Both leaders pointed to intervention tactics as a strategy to reduce crime. In particular, they touted the decade-old Learn and Earn program, which hires interns to work in city and county government as well as private businesses.

Innamorato said the program has guided young people to community college, bachelor’s degrees and on-the-job training.

“Our young people need to know that all of those things are open to them,” she said.

Gainey added that the program also allows parents to envision a brighter future for their kids.

“It’s not just the exposure for the child,” he said. “How do you think their [mother feels] that their child is interning with a mayor and county [executive]?”

But for Innamorato, a more urgent — and more controversial — question concerns the future of the county’s long-closed juvenile detention center.

Shuman Juvenile Detention Center is slated to reopen this spring, nearly three years after the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services revoked the county-run center’s license to operate.

Programs will be run by Adelphoi, a Latrobe-based non-profit that provides services to at-risk youth. The group’s $73 million contract with the county was announced by the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas and former County Executive Rich Fitzgerald last year. But the move drew immediate criticism from community members, County Council, and then-candidate Innamorato.

But Innamorato told WESA that Adelphoi will run the facility “for the time being” — despite a pending lawsuit from County Council over the legality of that contract and multiple suits against Adelphoi, alleging that they failed to protect children from abuse.

“The county did run this facility beforehand, and we traumatized kids, and we had our license taken away from us because the county was not a responsible manager of that facility,” Innamorato told WESA. “So it didn't go well either in the past.”

She added that her administration plans to establish an oversight board “that is comprised of community members who have really worked with young people in a meaningful way, to keep them out of a carceral system and re-enter back into society and in positive and productive ways.”

Innamorato is also focused on finding a new warden for the county’s long-troubled jail.

Former Warden Orlando Harper retired in September, which many advocates saw as an opportunity to better address problems including poor health care and ongoing staffing shortages.

Innamorato said her administration has hired an agency to help the county “try to attract the right type of person” for the job, and that the hiring process will include opportunities for community engagement.

The chosen candidate will be someone who thinks about “how to reenter folks into society the moment they walk through the doors,” she said. “Not when they're getting signed out.”

This is the second of a three-part series that asks the region’s top two local leaders about the issues they face. Find the first conversation about taxes and property reassessments here. On Friday: Innamorato and Gainey discuss their work to reduce homelessness and housing insecurity in the region.

Kiley Koscinski covers city government, policy and how Pittsburghers engage with city services. She also works as a fill-in host for All Things Considered. Kiley has previously served as a producer on The Confluence and Morning Edition.
Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at