Pittsburgh City Council approves new public safety initiative | Keeping Up With the Council

Pittsburgh City Council approves new public safety initiative

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In April the Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety tested a new pilot program in East Hills, an area where just this week a man was shot and killed. The "Promised Beginning" workshop, which provided mentoring for parents with children up to five years of age, is part of the Safer Together Pittsburgh initiative which aims to tackle crime and violence by improving relationships between the community and law enforcement.  

Now the department is looking to expand the mentoring program city-wide in an effort
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 to connect parents with valuable resources. Today City Council unanimously recommended a resolution authorizing the city to form partnerships with a variety of education and social services organizations to facilitate the program.

"There are a lot of resources in the city that are operating in their own vacuum," said Stephen Bucar, public safety director. "It brings those resources together, specifically targeting parents with school aged children."

According to the resolution the goals of the program are "healthy learning environments in the homes of families within the City of Pittsburgh; helping parents gain knowledge of the stages of child development; developing better communication skills in an effort to foster positive interaction between parents and their infants and toddlers; enabling parents to take an active role in raising children who are ready and willing to learn as they enter kindergarten and putting these children on the path to The Pittsburgh Promise. 

"I continue to say, I think we need to do more on the preventative side and not just the reactionary side," said District 2 Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith. "I think if we do that, we'll start to see results in the community. We spend all this money on services and resources, but everyday on the news there's another stabbing, another shooting."

The new initiative is being spearheaded by Maria Bethel, a public safety administrator who works in community outreach. City councilors expressed concerns about the cost of the program, but Bethel said it will not cost the city additional funds.

"There is no cost," said Bethel. "It's more of an workshop where parents can get information. We're looking at early childhood education— how to get parents to see the importance of education from the start."

Partners will include the Pennsylvania Western Regional Office of Child Development and Early Learning, Keystone Stars, Pittsburgh Public Schools, The Pittsburgh Promise, The University of Pittsburgh Reddy Freddy Program.

In addition to questioning the cost of the initiative, District 4 councilor Natalia Rudiak also said she'd like to measure the effectiveness of the program.

"I know a lot of times we get enthusiastic about these things and despite best efforts we're unable to sustain that so I just want to make sure that doesn't happen" Rudiak said. "We want to make sure we're having an impact. We want to be able to measure that because we don't want to be back here in five years having the same problems."

Today council also approved a resolution to authorize an information sharing agreement between city police and University of Pittsburgh police. The new agreement would allow the departments to share "protected information as defined in the Criminal History Record Information Act."

"This update agreement was born out of my concern over what we are sharing," said Bucar. "This agreement is a more specific agreement drafted by the law department to cover my concerns."

Talk of public safety brought up concerns from District 1 Councilor Darlene Harris who made a motion for a post agenda on public safety staffing. 

"The public has been concerned," said Harris. "We're down a number of police officers. We have a class [of officers graduating] in October and it's not going to fulfill the need." 

After her comments, Harris rescinded the motion, pending a conversation with the public safety director and Police Chief Cameron McLay. A public hearing and post agenda meeting on police staffing was originally scheduled for the beginning of May but canceled.

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