Watch CBS News

CeaseFirePA Holds Meeting To Address Community Violence In Pittsburgh Area

By: Erika Stanish/KDKA-TV

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The death of a teenager fatally shot outside Oliver Citywide Academy this week has local gun violence prevention advocates pushing for change.

On Thursday night, CeaseFirePA held a community meeting that featured a panel of experts from various violence prevention and intervention programs. They addressed community violence and the need for increased public grant funding.

"We have to stay proactive, not reactive. That's what's happening with funding. It's been reactive, not proactive," panelist Richard Garland said.

The advocacy group said the community must take urgent action to improve public safety in Allegheny County and across the commonwealth.

"The murder of Marquis Campbell is deeply impacting many of us," said Dr. Alison Culyba, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. "It challenges all of us to really think about the way that we frame violence and to think about this as a true health equity call to action."

The panelist called the violence a disease that is killing the community.

"Homicides are spiking because of a surge in guns in communities," said Josh Fleitman, director of CeaseFirePA.

Fleitman said gun violence homicides jumped 39% in Pennsylvania in 2020 compared to 2019.

"(Last year) was a violent year and surpassed a grim milestone in Allegheny County with over 100 firearm-related homicides, with mostly our Black communities impacted," Fleitman said.

He said 83% of firearm homicide victims were Black in Allegheny County and under the age of 30.

Experts said funding is needed more than ever on city, county, state and federal levels in order to help change those statistics. They said with more money in the budget, there will be more community-based violence prevention programs that will help reduce violence.

"We're doing the critical work day in and day out on the ground to address community violence, to address racial inequities and to ensure that all of the teens in our communities have the safety that they deserve and have the opportunities they deserve," Culyba said.

On Thursday. Gov. Tom Wolf announced a $15 million increase in funding to further support grassroots gun violence prevention efforts.

"Pennsylvania, and the nation, continues to fight a tragic gun violence crisis. We need to spark change at a local level, which is why I'm glad to commit an additional $15 million to community-based gun violence prevention programs," said Wolf. "But I also want to call on our legislators to partner with me over this next year to improve public safety and equity.

"This investment is one piece of the puzzle, but we also need to address the systemic and structural issues that cause inequity and harm in our society. We need to invest in schools, we need good jobs that pay fair wages, and we need to give communities across Pennsylvania the resources they need for a good quality of life."

The $15 million is available through the American Rescue Plan.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.