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Duquesne housing complex takes tremendous turn for the better

| Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, 11:37 p.m.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala holds a press conference at the Duquesne Place Headstart Wednesday September 5, 2013 at the facility inside the Parkview Manor Apartments complex in Duquesne.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Cathy Laughlin (far right), an education specialist at the Duquesne Place Headstart, helps students down the slide on Wednesday, September 5, 2013, at the facility in the Parkview Manor Apartments in Duquesne.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Cathy Laughlin, an education specialist at the Duquesne Place Headstart helps a student down the slide Wednesday September 5, 2013 at the facility in the Parkview Manor Apartments in Duquesne.

Increased security, education programs and evictions of problem tenants transformed a Duquesne housing complex from a crime-ridden neighborhood to a livable community, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said on Thursday.

“We can reach children at this age,” said Zappala, standing outside a Head Start center opened last year by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit in the Hilltop and Parkview Housing Complex. “By the time they're 16, 17 years old, sometimes they've made up their minds. We've had tremendous success in terms of changes here.”

The district attorney's office partnered with the AIU, the Duquesne School District, police and housing complex owner Moshe Eichler to clean up the complex since a shooting in January 2012 in which a 16-year-old was killed and a 14-year-old was injured.

The Head Start facility serves 16 preschool children. Added security features include improved lighting, surveillance cameras and increased police patrols.

Rose Moyle, complex manager, said evictions increased from about 50 in 2011 to 80 last year. So far this year, 47 people have been evicted. She said most were for public safety problems or unpaid rents.

“I lived here for five years, and the first two years were horrible. I've seen people get shot. The last two years have been great,” said Jamie Lang, 23.

Brandi Washington, 24, said one daughter, 3, attends the Head Start program and another daughter, 5, who is in kindergarten, attended the program last year.

“It's been a tremendous change. I'm a single mother, and it's improved since I've been here, a lot,” Washington said. “It's a nice place to live for us that take care of it.”

Adult GED classes will be available at the complex, which houses more than 1,200 people in 332 units. The DA's office provided about $15,000 for security cameras. Duquesne police provided extra patrols, and Duquesne Light provided the lighting, Zappala said.

Zappala said violence in the complex has shifted from shootings to “nuisance crimes,” although some domestic violence incidents have occurred.

Catherine Lobaugh, assistant director for early childhood, family and community services for the AIU, said Head Start programs help prepare children for kindergarten. The AIU operates 70 Head Start classrooms in Allegheny County.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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