PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Since the advent of the gangs in the early-1990s, Pittsburgh streets have been plagued with gunplay and violence; but today, police and city officials said a new philosophy of intervention is showing results.
“The number of shootings are down, the number of homicides are down, the number of violent crime acts in the city are down, and to understand that it is a partnership,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.
It’s called the Group Violence Initiative, and it is a team of street interventionist seeking to identify and target those most likely to commit violent crime.
“To find those who have the highest chance to harm themselves or to harm others, and to be able to intervene in their lives and give them other options,” said Mayor Peduto.
Headed by coordinator and former prison minister Cornell Jones, the team meets face-to-face with violent criminals and gives them those options.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “It’s a carrot and a stick?”
Jones: “It’s a carrot and stick, yes sir.”
The carrot is a package of social services that could provide the person safety, counseling and job training, a way out of the life.
“To say hey, we want you to live, we want you to stay out of prison, and we want you to walk in your purpose, because we care about you,” Jones said.
The stick for those who reject that offer is the heavy arm of law enforcement.
“All of our resources from law enforcement go onto not only that person but their group in total,” said Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Jim Glick.
By working together with community groups, police says the results are clear – a 12 percent reduction in violence last year, and an eight percent reduction over the past five years.
The program was tried of a few years back, but organizers said it failed because it didn’t have the buy-in from the rank-and-fil. Now though, the city says the bureau is behind it and it’s starting to show results.