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Mayor Ed Gainey details plans to increase police presence and cleanup Downtown

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — After months of fielding complaints from residents and businesses about the state of Downtown Pittsburgh, Mayor Ed Gainey unveiled his plans to clean up and patrol the Golden Triangle.

There's been shootings in broad daylight and complaints about a criminal element mixed in with people experiencing homeless and the mentally ill, making an environment both unpleasant and unsafe. On Thursday during a packed town hall, residents and businesses said there are too few police officers Downtown, and the few there are enforcing the law.

"It's bad down there, we need help immediately," one person said.

"We had no plan when we came in," Gainey told the crowd.

Responding to those complaints, Mayor Gainey says he now has plans. He said he will establish a mini-Downtown police zone with 18 dedicated officers supervised by a lieutenant and two sergeants. 

The city says arresting street people does not good. Instead, they'll practice so-called relationship-based policing, making arrests for major crimes and getting help from social service agencies with other problems.

"Maybe it's not drugs and gun violence, maybe it's mental health issues, addiction and homelessness," said Acting Pittsburgh Assistant Chief Christopher Ragland. "And so what we have to do as law enforcement is build those partnerships with those agencies."

The promises did not end there. Working with the Downtown Partnership and the Neighborhood Alliance, the city says it's looking to hire as many as 18 people to serve as Downtown ambassadors, establishing public restrooms and scheduling a massive cleanup of the streets and alleyways this spring. 

But in the problem of young people and guns, the mayor cautioned the city needs outside help.

"I could have a cop on every corner. If they see what they want, they're going to go get it," Gainey said.

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