Scrutiny of PIRC program continues | Keeping Up With the Council

Scrutiny of PIRC program continues

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At today's Pittsburgh City Council meeting, Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith requested a post agenda and public hearing to discuss the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, or the Group Violence Intervention Strategy, as it has recently been re-branded. 

PIRC is based on the "Ceasefire" model developed by City University of New York professor David Kennedy, who first implemented the model in Boston. Cities where it has been implemented have seen homicides decrease by as much as 30 percent, according to a 2012 report.

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The specter of PIRC was raised at council today when city councilors Daniel Lavelle and Ricky Burgess talked about their recent trip to  New York with Pittsburgh police officers who received training on the program.

"The model has now pretty much been recognized by the justice department as the lead way to reduce group-motivated gun violence," said Burgess, who was the first to sponsor legislation for the model.

But after ups and downs with the PIRC model over the years, Kail-Smith said she remains unconvinced of it's effectiveness.

"I'm extremely skeptical. I've heard this for six years," said Kail-Smith. "I've seen people making money hand over fist and I've seen bodies all over, people dying all over the place."

PIRC has never found even footing in Pittsburgh since it was first proposed in 2008. Insiders say there was little police buy-in when the program was launched, but some believed a new administration would change that. 

"I have had my share of reservations with the program over the years," said Council President Bruce Kraus. "But having said that I want to keep an open mind, and I want to hear from the new leadership we have in place."

It was initially retooled when Mayor Bill Peduto took office. And police Chief Cameron McLay has recently talked about plans to re-implement the original model.

But Kail-Smith wonders if resources wouldn't be better spent on other violence-reduction methods.

"Gun violence just doesn't happen, there's a lot that leads up to this," Kail-Smith said. "If it was the be all end all, why did it take us two years to get to the point where we're actually going to start looking at implementing this."

The post agenda and public hearing have not been scheduled yet.

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