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Anti-Violence Organizations In Pittsburgh React To New Law Enforcement Initiatives

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Local organizations and community leaders are sharing their thoughts on the new plans from Pittsburgh law enforcement to reduce violence in the city.

The need for change in the Steel City was clear during a press conference on Thursday. Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and public safety officials announced efforts to prevent violence.

"The good thing was today there were a variety of forces coming together and that's what we need right now," said Tim Stevens, chairman and CEO of The Black Political Empowerment Project and co-coordinator for the Greater Pittsburgh Coalition Against Violence.

"I was happy about that, but there wasn't enough said today in my opinion," said Rev. Eileen Smith, executive director of South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace.

Police said this year homicides in the city have increased by 55 percent, and most were shootings. Non-fatal shootings have increased by 24 percent. Many of the incidents involve teenagers and young adults.

"We're losing our loved ones to this senseless violence," said Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert.

"I'm tired of going out to scenes and seeing families hurt and communities grieving," said Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.

One of the new plans is getting guns off the streets. Pittsburgh police are teaming up with the ATF, which is creating a firearm trafficking unit.

Rev. Smith with South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace said this is long overdue, but she has one question.

"Where are the legislators? Where were they today? They are the ones who make the gun laws and who we fight all the time to change the gun laws," Rev. Smith said.

The police will continue community policing and increase patrols in what they call "the active areas." Stevens said that plan needs to be implemented appropriately.

"Obviously where there are increased shootings, we need more support but also that support needs to be done in a very humane, careful, professional fashion," Stevens said.

"I think that needs to happen. But they need to work with the street outreach people on that too because let's face it, there's not a lot of trust out there for our police, I have high regards for them, but not everyone does. We need to have more a close working relationship with our police officers who are out there in our street, we need to work with them, they need to work with us," Rev. Smith.

Chief Schubert said everyone needs to work together as a team and they need the community to help, which is something Stevens and Smith agree with.

"We've got to reach the community and instill in them that you have to help because it could be your child next time," Rev. Smith said.

"Police do not kill the number of Black people that we kill ourselves. We have to say neither is acceptable, we have to say the police can't kill us, but we can't kill ourselves either," Stevens said.

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