Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Public Safety Surge

"We're trying to send a strong message that we're serious, and we're sick and tired of what has been happening in our communities."

This is from Mayor Ravenstahl, appearing at a church in Homewood, announcing a response to the increase in violent crime. Five of the already 24 city homicides this year have occurred in Homewood, reports the Trib's Jill King Greenwood.

The Mayor put quite a big matzoh-ball out there, heralding an eight-part plan to quell the violence. He acknowledged to his listeners that "this isn't just a press conference" -- but of course it was. Clearly he and everybody else knows that the hard part starts now.

Many neighborhood residents have heard such promises before, but most seem ready to accept that we all have to start somewhere. Given budget and resources, much of the eight-point plan includes collaborative efforts with the community.

The Comet is not particularly in love with the prospect of video surveillance, an idea the mayor came to admire during a tour of Chicago (P-G, Ward & Dyer). Yet at this point in the crisis, certainly all options should be on the table.


  1. There is an interesting dynamic between the recent attention on the “Stop Snitching” ethos, Pittsburgh’s problems with the lack of minority recruits into the Public Safety Bureau, wave of crime in Homewood, the Hill, the North Side and other neighborhoods, and the city’s strained finances, resulting in fewer people in the police bureau. If Homewood is trusting city government, I am sure it is not without more than a few crossed fingers behind more than a few backs. In some ways, the situation is a little like Iraq. But this mayor is running unopposed, so he doesn’t really have to do that much for this constituency. 30 extra police for a few months, maybe some video cameras, telling some churches they need to have deacons walking the beat on some blocks and allowing the 311 line to be used for tips (does it still close down at five?). Meanwhile, like in Iraq, the locals in Homewood probably look at Ravenstahl like he is an alien. He has no idea what they go through, so how much can he do for them? And apparently, that extends to the Public Safety bureau. It’s bad enough to think about joining the same cops who beat minority applicants up as teenagers. Then minority applicants have to jump through hopes (ie, work harder in worse schools than white kids, get into and pay for two years of college where again minority applicants need to work harder to prove to the profs they know something) just to worry that as new recruits they might be stuck in the worst jobs and shifts in an effort to make them quit. And minority recruits get to be mistrusted by white and black civilians. Would you apply?

    The church part of that proposal kind of bothers me. If I skimmed that right, it seems like asking church people to look for trouble in a particular area is a sure way to find trouble. Neighborhood Watch’s in Squirrel Hill are one thing, this seems like something worse. I hope nobody gets too enthusiastic.

  2. Why doesn't Luke just get some good old money and give it to One Vision, One Life? They reduced violent crime by something like, 42% in two years.