PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh police are gearing up to launch a new task force with one very specific purpose aimed at repeat gun violence offenders.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto went before city council Thursday to discuss the new initiative. In the new year, the street crimes unit will target gun violence.
"We will follow where gun violence leads us," said Scirotto said.
He said it's unfortunate there are so many repeat gun violence offenders in the city that it makes sense to create a force dedicated to these criminals.
The chief made sure to say this force will have a "tremendous amount of oversight" in addressing concerns about potential use of excessive force, which other cities have experienced with units focused on patrolling crime hotspots. He specifically referenced the now-disbanded unit in Memphis in which five officers were charged in the death of Tyre Nichols, saying "That's the last thing that I intend to happen under my watch."
The chief said this unit will further the violence prevention programs in the city, especially when it comes to people denying these services. He said violence is trending downward compared to this time last year and the program will continue to help with that.
The department will also bring on community service aides to help with issues that don't necessarily require a sworn officer, freeing officers to deal with other calls.
Councilman Anthony Coghill, the public safety chair, told KDKA-TV's Mamie Bah that while he's apprehensive, he's willing to give it a shot.
"The jury is out, we'll see how it works, but hey, if it helps curb gun violence then I'm for it. I'll give the chief the benefit of the doubt," he said.
The street crimes unit will consist of 17 members, with oversight from two sergeants and one lieutenant. This unit will work with all other units in the department to reduce violent crime in the city.
Scirotto believes it will also help build community relations.
"Utilizing these officers, their skill set to not only focus on those that are going to cause the most harm in our communities, but to build bridges with members of our community that otherwise we haven't in the past," he said.
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