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DA meets with South Side bar owners to discuss reducing violence

District Attorney Stephen Zappala meets with South Side bar owners to discuss reducing violence
District Attorney Stephen Zappala meets with South Side bar owners to discuss reducing violence 02:20

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald privately met with bar owners on the South Side to discuss solutions to violence in the neighborhood.

Bar owners filled The Flats on Carson on Tuesday afternoon. Zappala said he's concerned about safety on Carson Street from 23rd Street to 10th Street. He said businesses are taking a hit financially and they want help.

"These guys are losing money," Zappala said. "They are businesspeople. They want to do the right thing. Everything is on the table from the technology in the bars, the cameras outside that directly link to police agencies."

Zappala said they're trying to link all the establishments on the South Side by adding technology inside bars to keep them connected. There is no timeline on when bars could see this or how much it would cost businesses.

"We're trying to link all of these establishments down here together, so using a technology that the county would pay for," Zappala said. "You would come in, they'd read a license and if that person was banned from another bar, you would know that. I don't care what technology they buy, as long as they are connected, they can talk to each other so a problem down on 12th Street doesn't become a problem on 17th, 18th. So I think that's really significant."

He said bar owners and the county are willing to invest. A man who attended the meeting told said Zappala said the county would pay for the ID machine and the bars would pay for the service.

Allegheny County Rich Fitzgerald attended the meeting to hear ideas and discuss the possibilities with the bar owners.

"These guys want help," Zappala said. "Their businesses are taking a hit and they've lost control of the ability to generate cash flow, so they are willing to invest in the technology and the county is willing to invest."

Fitzgerald said he thinks a lot of good solutions were shared and they'll see what comes out of the meeting.

"These are responsible owners who want to make sure the patrons that they're serving are doing responsible things," Fitzgerald said. "Things that we talked about are things you've heard before: more enforcement, those type of things. We've got to figure out and others have to figure out coming together to solve the problem." 

Sobriety checkpoints and curfews were also discussed in the meeting. Zappala said he asked the city to consider imposing a curfew for juveniles.

He hopes working together as a team will help eradicate the problems in a short period of time.

This past Saturday night, one person was critically injured in a shooting near Carson Street. Pittsburgh police said officers observed a bar security guard who detained an armed individual at 13th and East Carson and they found a gunshot victim at the intersection of 12th and Sarah streets. Twenty-five-year-old Jmel Jones was arrested and charged with attempted homicide.

Zappala said if someone commits a crime on the South Side, they will be caught.

"We got cameras," he said. "If you're going to commit a stupid crime, you're going to get caught, and go to prison." 

"He's shown his support to work with folks, work with the community, and try to figure out a solution, obviously, and bringing the authority that he has with respect to enforcement, with respect with the LCE, working with state police and other entities to be able to do things," Fitzgerald said. "The fact that the district attorney is here is a good positive sign." 

Zappala said they plan to have more productive conversations with bar owners throughout the near future. But after the meeting, some bar owners told KDKA-TV that they are skeptical.

DA meets with South Side bar owners to discuss reducing violence 03:08

"Who is going to check it? I mean, we have a doorman," Mary Jo Fontana of Dee's Southside Cafe said. "A lot of places don't. We have one every single night." 

"How much is that going to cost the bars?" Fontana added.

She wonders if adding the technology will really help. 

"We check for guns, we check for weapons, we do everything we can," Fontana said. "But a lot of it is happening outside."

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