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New Crime Report Strategy for East End Group

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The Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation has modified its policy of printing monthly lists of those arrested on drug, gun or prostitution charges in the group's Bulletin.

According to BGC Executive Director Rick Swartz, the board of the neighborhood development group decided in mid-December to shift away from listing the names of those arrested but not yet tried or convicted on these few, select charges. The next Bulletin, Swartz reports, will highlight neighborhood arrests of drug dealers, but list them only by age and sex. Future Bulletin crime reports "will go deeper, we hope," by including information on the progress of such cases through the courts.

"We're trying to say how effective is law enforcement in our community," Swartz says.

The BGC had faced a neighborhood campaign to end the practice of naming arrestees, led by Alex Bradley of the activist Pittsburgh Organizing Group. Bradley maintained that such lists target minorities and the poor and don't allow for the presumption of innocence. Critics contend the lists also fail to help residents pinpoint crime trends or locations, if that is their goal.

Swartz says some board members were influenced to change the policy by a recent City Paper examination of one Bulletin arrestee list. The study found that, of the 26 arrestees named in the May Bulletin, 17 had previously been arrested, 7 were arrested again after May, and only three had gone through the judicial process 6 months after their names had appeared.

"If you're just printing the same names over and over again, what good is that doing?" Swartz says today. "It doesn't cause any embarrassment Downtown," where the judicial system is apparently not helping rid the neighborhood of such arrestees.

"We're not going to forget about ever printing an arrest report again, because there are some people on our board who want to know this, and some members of the public who are curious," Swartz adds. But here too the BGC plans to delve deeper -- planning soon, for instance, to highlight by name several individuals arrested for a string of East End burglaries, in the same manner as a more general newspaper.

Bradley says he is "elated to see some positive movement on this issue." The outcome, he believes, also demonstrates a broadening of local activists' focus from global and anti-war issues to neighborhood concerns.

Bradley hopes the new policy means the BGC will "look at more holistic community-centered approaches to criminal-justice questions without simply relying on the police, courts, and shaming tactics." If so, he adds, "I think this is a huge step in the right direction and one I'll participate in." Then again, if the only change is "a new feature based on the same underlying philosophy and values," then Bradley predicts "increasing conflict between groups such as POG and the BGC." And he'll be participating in that as well.

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