"Comprehensive Community Violence Reduction Strategy" for District 9 is Modeled After Boston Crime Plan, Intended for Replication Throughout City
A cohesive and engaged community, a network of faith-based and community-based resources in that community, several police departments, several probations and parole departments, several attorney's offices, city and county leaders and a School Board.
These are the many ingredients that must work in concert as part of Councilman Ricky Burgess' public safety plan, which he still terms "a work in progress," but expects to be ready for passage by the August recess.
"It has been completed with significant support," said Burgess. "From the County Executive, the County District Attorney, and tacit agreement from the Mayor's office -- already we have some funding to seed it."
The Rev (as he is called) released details of the "Community First Initiative" to the Comet upon being asked about a campaign pledge he made to provide a "Comprehensive Public Safety Capacity Plan" for District 9 within his first 100 days in office. Council has been at work roughly 150 working days.
"We've had it ready to go since maybe February," said Burgess. "The delay -- the two things I've been dealing with is either dealing with being a new council member myself, or dealing with what we've sometimes called 'minutia'."
He allows that the "minutia" can be very important in its own right, but that "my strategy is to get things accomplished."
"What we are doing is consistent with research," attests Burgess. "Everywhere they've tried it, it's worked."
His own Council District 9 (which includes East Liberty, Homewood, Lincoln Lemington, Larimer, and parts of North Point Breeze and Friendship) serves as a good venue for the pilot program not only due to a perniciously high crime rate, but because "all the pieces are in place," including the Homewood / Brushton ministers and others.
"You have to put a strategy committee together," Burgess explained, "with a strong clergy, probation and parole, juvenile probation and parole, policing people, human services. The goal of this is to have a coordinating strategy in the community."
That strategy committee is to be wholly representative of that community and meet at least once a month, to coordinate broad efforts and to provide needed follow-up support.
Time and again, Burgess emphasized the indispensability of strong churches and church leaders in making the plan work.
"Churches begin to own the violence," he insisted. "We're gonna hold both sides accountable."
Pastors would be called upon to buy into the plan to the point of encouraging support for the police straight from the pulpit. This has a somewhat better effect than a cop making the same pitch, he indicates -- the idea is to provide law enforcement with an "umbrella of legitimacy."
At the same time, Burgess says we can't afford to have "tanks" or similar heavily armed police presences and activities "traumatizing the community."
Much can be gained through seemingly simple measures like analyzing data -- plotting stabbing violence against gunshot violence, for example, or coordinating community events and services so as not to conflict with one another.
"I'm guessing $150K to do this," answered Burgess, when asked about the total cost of the pilot program.
Funders on board or nearing commitment include the Youth Crime Prevention Council, a program called Ceasefire Pennsylvania, and the District Attorney's office.
"The Twanda money," he explained. "That's what it's there for."
Councilman Burgess provided us with a 12-page outline of the Community First Initiative strategy to reduce violence. It provides startling research data on the Boston plan, including a 47.1% decline in gunshot violence between 1994 and 1996 and an approximate 70% reduction in violent crime between 1990 and 1997, as well as voluminous data about the specific situation of Pittsburgh's East End.
The Comet intends to circulate and further review the details of this emerging neighborhood crime plan in the days and weeks ahead.
Photo credit: Pittsburgh City Paper.