Peduto wants mini police station in Downtown to quell Pittsburgh crime | TribLIVE.com
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Aaron Aupperlee

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he wants to create a mini police station in the city’s Downtown in response to rising violent crime in the area.

Peduto said he will look to put money into next year’s budget to build three mini police stations in the city, and one will be in Downtown.

“We want to be able for the officers to know the store owners and to know the homeless people themselves,” Peduto said Thursday.

He did not say where the other two would be.

The mayor said he also is considering how to use city-owned land near Allegheny County Jail to establish a homeless shelter. Peduto said the city needs a shelter that can accommodate up to 70 people and be open year-round.

Tim McNulty, a spokesman for Peduto, said the mini station and the homeless shelter are still under discussion and no exact funds or locations have been identified.

“It’s not simply a police issue,” Peduto said of crime Downtown. “It is an issue that deals with mental health, homelessness and addiction.”

There has been a recent surge in violence in Downtown this summer.

This month, there have been four knife attacks. Janice Purdue-Dance of Erie was killed when a man attacked her with a knife at a Downtown bus stop. Police charged James Wyatt, 23, of McKeesport, with homicide in connection to the attack.

Knife attacks in Pittsburgh’s Downtown have spiked sharply this year, according to statistics provided by police.

The Pittsburgh Public Safety Department tweeted charts that showed aggravated assaults with knives doubled in Downtown from three in 2018 to six so far this year and jumped from nine in 2018 to 21 this year in all of Zone 2, a police coverage area that includes Downtown.

The numbers for 2019 are the highest they have been in both areas in the last five years, according to the data provided by police.

Aggravated assaults with knives have held relatively steady citywide for the past five years.

Peduto said overall crime and violent crime is down across the city. Crime, however, is up in Zone 2 and in Downtown, Peduto said.

“That issue is being addressed immediately through more police that are Downtown,” Peduto said, adding that police are on bikes and horses throughout Downtown.

The city has created a crime stats unit with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police that can track and analyze statistics in real time and down to the neighborhood level.

Peduto said the mini police station he hopes to put Downtown will be modeled after a mini station in Northview Heights. Officers work directly out of that station and get to know the neighborhood.

The city recently opened a Zone 2 substation on Liberty Avenue in Downtown. The mini station would be different, McNulty said. The substation is staffed by a revolving set of officers out of the Zone 2 station in the Hill District. The mini station, like the one in Northview Heights, would have a dedicated sergeant and officers.

Crime in Downtown won’t be solved by more police alone, Peduto said, noting that Purdue-Dance was killed when a man reached over a police officer to stab her and that there was another fight right outside the Downtown substation.

Peduto said there is city-owned property near the county jail that the city could give to the county so it could work with Pittsburgh Mercy on setting up a shelter. Peduto said Pittsburgh Mercy and other providers have been involved in meetings to address the issues Downtown.

“Anything that expands access to services and increases engagement among people who are experiencing homelessness is a positive,” said Linda Ross, director of communications for Pittsburgh Mercy.

A spokeswoman for Allegheny County said the county has been part of conversations about the issues and will continue to be part of the solution.

“But we really need help from federal and state governments,” Peduto said. “They cannot keep cutting the safety net for people and expect them to be anything other than on the streets. It just doesn’t make sense.”

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