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Local Neighborhoods Using National Night Out To Band Together Against Crime

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- It's National Night Out, a chance for communities to band together to fight crime.

It's something city leaders are urging, but some who've been active in fighting crime in their neighborhoods say there's a lot more to it.

At Rosedale and Susquehanna Streets, there is a playground that symbolizes a change that started in the midst of a sharp upturn in crime.

The stop sign in place now is nothing like the old one.

In 1991, the stop sign was riddled with bullets. Two years before the record number of homicides ever recorded in the city.

Dianne Swan and the Rosedale Block Cluster had a lot to do with changing the neighborhood.

"We responded in the most impactful way we could," said Swan. "We actually went to the corners and had vigils. We went to challenge any nuisance bars. We started cleaning up acres and acres of blighted property, which helped to reduce the crime at that time by 95 percent."

But their funding from private and public sources is nothing like it used to be.

"We reduced the staff from five down to 2.5," she said. "We've done everything we could, but we still continue to keep our youth, as many as we can, trained and involved in making a difference in their community from a positive perspective."

Across the neighborhood on Monticello Street, they're getting ready for National Night Out to do their part. But the latest call from city leaders isn't new to them either.

They say they've heard it before.

On Monticello Street in Homewood, Night Out organizers such as Celeste Taylor believe the community coming together is part of the solution.

"Yes, and the proof is in the pudding," said Celeste Taylor of Homewood. "You really want that effort to mean something. That you not only see it, but you see some good results."

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was at the National Night Out celebration in the Spring Garden section of the North Side on Tripoli Street and Retail Way.

Peduto said it will take more than extra patrols to solve the problem. He says detectives need help connecting the dots and figuring out which crimes are related.

"If you're going to get good information, you can't have a police officer at every corner, it requires the community to be able to be part of the solution," said Mayor Peduto.

Yesterday when Mayor Peduto pointed to a map that included Homewood, the area where 13 new recruits will be assigned starting next week, Taylor was already planning a national night out activity for her neighborhood on Monticello street.

People danced in the street. Kids did art work and blew bubbles. And there was plenty of food.

Lawanda Long says it reminds her of what Homewood was like when she was a kid, and she hopes it can go back that feeling of neighborhood friendliness.

Calls for action and plans for police redeployment here are not new.

"We've needed this kind of attention but more than that we need action," Taylor said today. "We need an effective strategy. It's more than just the selling of drugs. It's also the neglect of neighborhoods, the lack of opportunities and lack of activities for young people in particular."

The community's crises took center stage in the early 1990s just before the record year for homicides.

In 1991 that stop sign at Rosedale and Susquehanna was riddled with bullet holes.

Today, some of the improvements to that area can be directly tied to the work of the Rosedale block cluster which was formed during that turbulent time. But their private and public money is drying up.
They say crime prevention is more than cooperation with police.

"Over the thousand youth that we've worked with, 75 percent of them have gone on to positive opportunities and it changed the character of the community significantly because people felt a part of it," says Executive Director Dianne Swan.

"Being visible, being active and incorporating the community in everything that's going on, decision making and activities, you won't have those problems of crimes of violence. "But have to have resources to be able to continue those efforts."

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