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Homewood needs police blitz more than South Side

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A lot of effort and attention has been focused on the Pittsburgh police enforcement blitz in the South Side, which seems to be targeting wayward parked cars, the tipsy and a few criminals. In that order.

Less publicized was the city police blitz on Homewood. It's not exactly a destination spot. It is, however, one of the most violent neighborhoods in the city, according to police department statistics.

Just look at the front-page news story about one person shot to death and four others wounded Wednesday afternoon in Homewood — in broad daylight.

The Homewood North, South and West neighborhoods had 203 violent crimes in 2011, the latest year figures were available from city police. By comparison, the South Side had 125 violent crimes that year.

So, yes, Homewood could use a blitz. Or as Pittsburgh police call it, a “saturation detail.”

Yet the Homewood detail lasted barely more than a month — Feb. 7 to March 10 — from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

Maurita Bryant, an assistant chief with the department, said in an interview before Wednesday's shootings that the detail was successful. She said the effort focused on much of Washington Boulevard, as well as Brushton, Hamilton, Frankstown and Homewood avenues.

A total of 40 arrests were made, including six people charged with firearm violations. Almost half of those arrested were charged with drug possession.

“The detail was designed to be more of a deterrent to prevent additional violent activity anticipated in the area,” she said.

Makes sense, but the Homewood detail is over already, while the one in the South Side continues. Why?

Bryant said January's police shooting of a motorist and his mother on Carson Street brought many complaints from residents there. Homewood's detail began because of a city commander's concern of retaliation stemming from a shooting in early February.

“There was no outcry from the community,” she said.

But why leave an area in obvious need of increased police presence and stay in another neighborhood where the problems can largely be traced to the river of alcohol sold in the business district that runs through it?

Rhonda Sears, 46, a Homewood resident who last year helped organize a major cleanup effort there, said she didn't know about the saturation detail when it was in effect but was happy to hear an effort was made. Sears has an 11-year-old son and a 17-year-old daughter. Her brother, Richard, was 20 when he was shot to death on Frankstown Avenue in a case of mistaken identity on May 25, 1986.

Sears grew up in Homewood, but she has considered leaving because she is worried about her young son “getting caught up” in the violence.

“It might be time for me to go so I can save my son,” she said.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, nvanaski@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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