Editorial: What will quiet the crime?
Downtown Pittsburgh crime is making a lot of noise right now.
It’s not just the loudest alarm bell — a series of knife-related incidents that included a woman being killed right in front of a police officer.
There are the more persistent buzzings of everyday problems. There is the panhandling. There is vagrancy. There is drunkenness and lewdness and people openly smoking marijuana.
In July, Kevin McMahon, CEO of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, sent a letter to Mayor Bill Peduto talking about the city’s failure to address issues that hurt the way people perceive the Cultural District.
Someone leaked it to the media. That banged like a brass gong, and Peduto was not happy. City officials said the issues were being addressed but balked at the idea that police were the only solution.
That was before the knifings.
Six weeks later, Peduto seems to have grudgingly conceded that a greater police presence is necessary.
On Thursday, the mayor announced that three mini police stations will be in next year’s budget. One will be Downtown. It will join the recently added Zone 2 substation on Liberty Avenue in beefing up the department’s presence in the area.
This is a good plan. Peduto is not wrong in saying that a more localized presence where police will get to know the businesses and the homeless and the issues will make it easier to deal with, diffuse and prevent problems.
He is also right about the need to address the issues of homelessness that are at the heart of many of Downtown’s issues. You can’t round people up and send them home if they have no home to go to. Increased policing is not the only solution to this problem.
But perception quickly becomes reality. If Downtown becomes known for knifings more than nightlife, its steady growth will take a hit. What the mayor’s proposal may be missing is immediacy. The crime exists now. Businesses are affected now. People are feeling threatened now. A budget proposal for next year doesn’t address that. More answers about what will might help boost confidence in the city’s response.
Maybe people just need to make a little more noise to get those answers.