There has been enormous private and public investment in downtown Pittsburgh over many decades – housing, office buildings, retail shops, theaters, a convention center, stadiums, hotels, restaurants, bars, parks, trails and public spaces. All of these amenities were designed to be used by the citizens of Allegheny County and visitors. All are now imperiled.
Our downtown corridor is experiencing a rise of violence and visible illegal conduct on its city streets, as well as in tents and encampments in public spaces. This visible illegal conduct ranges from public defecation to public use of hard drugs.
Crime, real danger and fear are on the rise. The repercussions are startling… social disorder and economic harm, including devaluation of properties, decreased use of public amenities and an exodus out of the City. The situation is growing worse by a reluctance to take action for fear of mistreatment of the homeless; people of color; and people with mental disorders… groups who historically have been victimized or marginalized by “law-and-order” measures.
Issue: Are there appropriate ways to make our city safer while respecting the rights of all citizens?
Answer: There are many legal, ethical and appropriate steps that can and must be taken immediately to reduce crime and disorder in the City. These are measures that would enhance the safety of the city, prevent devaluation of our region’s greatest asset (the City), while protecting our most vulnerable populations.
A 10 Point Program:
- Have a greater presence of uniformed law enforcement, including County police, in our downtown corridor.
- Embed mental health workers into law enforcement teams to de-escalate conflict and seek peaceful resolution.
- Conduct special training for teams of law enforcement and mental health workers on best practices to de-escalate, solve and resolve.
- Take immediate, consistent and direct action in response to illegal conduct, including drug sales and drug use; have co-existent vigorous safe-needle & diversionary programs.
- Do not ignore illegal conduct occurring in tents or encampments.
- Establish a citizen hotline for safety concerns.
- Establish a means for quick and efficient procurement of warrants.
- By executive order or ordinance, ban the use of tents and sleeping bags on public walkways, city parks and trails.
- De-concentrate homeless shelters from downtown.
- Zero tolerance for police misconduct; use of excessive force; targeting; discriminatory or inconsistent application of best practices.
As County Executive, I would ensure that the County makes available mental health and addiction specialists to support law enforcement efforts. I would also gather and apply resources from a wide variety of interested parties, including our corporate, non-profit and philanthropic communities. I would take all possible measures immediately to protect our County’s citizens and our greatest asset, our downtown corridor, which now is imperiled by a lack of needed action.
I pledge that, as County Executive, I would take action as a matter of utmost urgency to make our downtown corridor safe and secure for all residents. Save our City.