Peduto Responds To Downtown Crime, Outlines Action Plan

Officials target homelessness, drug addiction, mental health

Lynne Hayes-Freeland
August 30, 2019 - 9:33 am
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

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PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) — The City of Pittsburgh will put more police on the streets downtown to counter violent crime this year.

Mayor Bill Peduto announcing the plans while addressing media at an event with Governor Tom Wolf Thursday.

“Crime is down citywide but up in zone 2,” Peduto said. “When we get specific to the central business district, we have seen an uptick in 2019 of violent crime in Downtown.”

The announcement comes after the fourth stabbing in the Golden Triangle this month that prompted a Wednesday night meeting of Downtown stakeholders, law enforcement and city leadership.

Decreasing business and increasing aggression from panhandlers were among the issues brought up.

“We cannot arrest people for panhandling,” Peduto said Thursday. “But we can arrest them for their conduct when it becomes aggressive.”

Light of Life Rescue Mission executive director Jerrell Gilliam told Lynne Hayes-Freeland on KDKA Radio, the opioid crisis could be a contributing factor.

“When the person is in the throes of addiction, their brains are reacting just as if they’re in a fight or flight mode,” Gilliam explained. “So they become much more aggressive.”

Gilliam says the face of homelessness is changing.

“With the opioid crisis, we’re seeing more that are addicted that are out there and that’s causing them to make choices that land them on the streets,” Gilliam explained.

He also says more students are struggling to find stable housing in the city.

Peduto and Gilliam both say the issue is a complex one.

“It is an issue that deals with mental health, homelessness and addiction,” Peduto said. “And we have all three coming together right now.”

Peduto says the city is looking at donating land to the county for a new homeless shelter near the county jail.

Pittsburgh will also budget for three police substations like the one that opened in Northview Heights. One of the three will be downtown with dedicated officers.

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Joe DeStio and Jennifer Bloodworth contributed to this story.

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