Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Burgess to Push District-Wide Crime Plan

"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.


  1. Wow for this. Wow for your (Ford) interview with the Feds. Wow for all the consistent EXCELLENT work you do here, Bram.


  2. is this the burgess anti crime deal: FBI looks at the thugs running the city?

    Wow. Pulitzer for the Comet, Bram, Char, Burger, Woodward & Bernstein.

  3. What does "minutia" mean?

    Also "At the same time, Burgess says we can't afford to have "tanks" or similar heavily armed police presences and activities "traumatizing the community."

    Then why did he promote the following during the campaign?

    1. In this clip from a candidate forum prior to the May primary, Burgess does call for "targeted police sweeps." Quoted from Tuesday, September 11, 2007 Pittsburgh Comet

    2. Rev. Ricky Burgess promises that within his first 100 days in office he will take "serious action" to reduce violence and create jobs. Burgess says he would implement a "Safe Neighborhood" program led by representatives from law enforcement, churches and other nonprofits. The plan will focus not just on prosecuting crime, but preventing it, and on reintegrating criminals into the community once they are released. Burgess also hopes to lead the community in compiling a list of development priorities districtwide, rather than focusing on one area. "If we have that comprehensive list, then we don't have people who are in the same boat fighting each other for development dollars," he says. Quoted The Bulletin Candidate interviews

    3. “Burgess says that as a council member, he would make public safety a top priority,and would push for both targeted police sweeps to take out drug and sex offenders, combined with targeted social service efforts to prevent people from turning to such crimes in the first place. Burgess promised that, if elected, he would, within the first 100 days of his time in office, take specific steps for violence reduction and economic development. ”Quoted from May 2007edition of The Bulletin

    OK not every one can count 100 days in office and promises do get broken

  4. Can "targeted police sweeps" be done in such a way that they do not "traumatize the community?" Can they be conducted with the community's consent?

    He seems to think so. Probably this is something like what the word "targeted" was trying to get at.

  5. Oh, and what does he mean by "minutia"? Politics, mostly. And as Chair of the Zoning and Land Use committee, he's getting all this responsibility related to the billboard fiascos. He just promised yesterday that no illegal permits went through on his watch, nor are any going to be granted in the future.

  6. The billboard fiasco did not happen in district nine.

    How can modeling a crime plan from 199? from Boston effectivily help us today? Remember he is the one who shot down the disparity plan that was done in 199?

    Old plans don't work unless you pay to have them updated!

  7. It seems that is what is he currently doing, updating the model of the Boston ten point plan and tailoring it specifically to the east end. I am assuming that it is take a little more than the 100 days than he initially expected, although it seems that Burgess and his team have made substantial progress.

  8. And as the committee chair of zoning and land use, I believe that the billboards are a part of his responsibility, and we wouldn't want our public officials shirking they're duty. and Bram, is there a way that i could obtain a copy of the community first outline?

  9. Best thing to do might be to call his office; I don't believe he's holding it close to the vest.

    If you want to de-anonymize yourself and send me an e-mail, I'd be happy to make you a copy. I'll see maybe if I can get a hold of an electronic version as well....

  10. collegestudent1 said"and we wouldn't want our public officials shirking they're duty."

    You must not remeber when Burgess ran... from the council table fearful that he would lose his job if he voted to pay the attorney that he helped hire but doesn't want to pay for with his own money!

  11. I'm sorry Anon 12:39, but insinuating that the Rev's decision not to participate in those council meetings is equivalent to shirking his duties is absurd. While one can disagree with this action (I personally wish he had stayed at the table with kruas, peduto, and shields), Burgess' actions had firm justifications. The city had issued a legal opinion that indicated that Burgess would be risking his job by being a part of discussions on this issue. That threat was serious enough that all of the Lamar 4 initially recused themselves. Burgess clearly believed that discussing this issue was not worth the risk of losing his seat, and thus his platform to better serve the residents of his district. By doing this, he was essentially conceding to the possibility of having to pay a portion of this bill. This, coupled with the fact that his election to city council led burgess to take a pay cut seems to indicate that instead of shirking his duties, Burgess was putting the well being of his district above his personal finances.

  12. Gang --

    Since this post came out and generated some reaction, the Rev's team reminded me that many details of the strategy and the outline still are still a "work in progress". Many stakeholders still need to be fully taken into account; this article was sort of a "preview". So upon the Councilman's request, I will not widely circulate my preliminary version of the plan outline, except to those people to whom I've already promised it (and it will be delivered with that disclaimer.) I'll still use it as a resource in further posts on the subject.