The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police says homicides have increased by more than 50% in 2021.By Nicole Ford

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh’s public safety director says they will be announcing new initiatives over the next few weeks aimed at reducing the recent rise in gun violence and violent crime.

Director Wendall Hissrich, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert along with ATF officials and the Center for Victims discussed the need for changes during a news conference Thursday morning.

It was held on the heels of an announcement Wednesday from President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland on strategies on gun and crime prevention nationally.

Pittsburgh police report this year a 55 percent increase in homicides, a 24 percent increase in non-fatal shootings and nearly 20 percent of the victims in those shootings under the age of 18.

“No zone or street is immune. We are losing loved ones to this violence. You shouldn’t have a 6-year-old shot in a car, a 15-year-old shot multiple times in front of his house. We need to fix this. This is our town, this is our home,” Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert said.

Hissrich says he is hopeful that a team approach will help with problem-solving. He has also brought in federal authorities to help with the planning and changes.

“My only child, I’m a single mom, I raised him and having to watch him in the hospital due to all this violence,” Preeti Tuli said.

Tuli knows the pain of losing a child right in front of her. In February, her 18-year-old son, Ahmir, was gunned down in front of her business in the Strip District.

“Does it make sense that we are taking kids who have their whole lives ahead of them? Everybody is impacted. I’m tired of going to the grave to go talk to my son, I just want to touch him and hold him. I’ve been stripped of that,” Tuli said.

But how do you fix it? Schubert said it starts by stopping the trafficking of stolen and illegal guns. A new ATF task force hopes to stop that.

“The unit is going to work closely with the bureau of police to stem the flow of firearms from federal firearm licensees to the streets where they are being recovered. We are assigning two new special agents to that initiative, as well as an intel analyst,” said Matthew Varisco, the ATF Special Agent in Charge in the Philadelphia Division.

Varisco said over 700 stolen firearms are already recovered in Pittsburgh yearly. The hope is by getting more guns off the streets, there will be less gun violence.

This partnership is just the first step. Police investigators said they are just one-quarter of the puzzle. The community makes up the rest, and they need their help in reporting any information.