Pittsburgh working on plan to address homelessness, crime in Downtown
Pittsburgh police have been working several months on plans to better address growing problems with homelessness and crime in the Golden Triangle, Chief Scott Schubert said Friday.
He said the Zone 2 station, which staffs a substation on Liberty Avenue in Downtown, did an evaluation that included the number of service calls, arrests, technology and quality of life issues.
“There is an increase in calls down there,” Schubert said. “They are coming up with a plan that will help the Downtown area. You’ll see more (police on) bicycles, motorcycles and horses. We want to have more officers down there who are familiar with the area and know the people.”
The situation came to a head two weeks ago after Kevin McMahon, CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, outlined his concerns to Mayor Bill Peduto in a letter that was leaked to local media. McMahon wrote that police failed to address such things as homelessness, panhandling, public drunkenness, lewd behavior and public marijuana smoking that threatened the image of the Cultural District.
The letter rankled Peduto because it made headlines and failed to address root causes driving those problems, according to administration officials. Peduto was unavailable on Friday.
“Mayor Peduto wishes Mr. McMahon had dealt with concerns about crime and city residents experiencing homelessness constructively and professionally instead of leaking his letter to the press,” Peduto spokesman Tim McNulty said.
The Cultural Trust said the letter was never intended for public release and McMahon characterized it as “a call for help.” He said he has since met with Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich and other city officials to address the problem.
“We are working together to address the points raised in the letter,” he said.
Dan Gilman, Peduto’s chief of staff, said the city is experiencing an increase in homelessness and drug addiction, but the solution would require input from various public and private agencies, including the Pittsburgh Public School District, Allegheny County, nonprofits that provide social services and business leaders.
He said McMahon’s letter suggested only a police response to the problem.
“The entire approach of writing a letter that’s focused on policing, and only on the city and not a larger partnership, is a fundamental failure in understanding the problem and the solution,” he said. “The solution to that is joint efforts on how do you fund and take care of people, how do you invest in mental health facilities, how do you invest in health care for individuals, how do you raise wages so that people who have jobs aren’t sleeping in their cars and on streets.”
Gilman said he’s working to create a partnership among government entities and social service providers.
“There’s significant work being done, but again that work is a partnership,” he said. “It’s joint, and it involves social service providers and looking to address the problem, not simply hiring more police to make arrests.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .