The group includes Pittsburgh City Councilors Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle, Allegheny County Councilor Olivia Bennett, and state Reps. Jake Wheatley and Ed Gainey, who will likely become the next Pittsburgh mayor after winning the Democratic Primary in May.
“It’s education, it’s workforce, it’s economic development, it’s housing, it’s food. So yes, we want everybody,” Bennett said at an Oct. 7 press conference. "We are building a collective of people and organizations that will move us toward peace in our streets. Our series of events all have this goal in mind and will point toward our Peace Summit in 2022. If you are tired of our babies dying, join us. This work is inclusive, and we need everyone."
Overall crime is actually down in the city of Pittsburgh, according to a Pittsburgh Police report comparing the first half of 2020 to the first half of 2021. However, violent crime rates have increased 5.6% in the first half of 2021 compared to the same time in 2020. Even with the jump in violent crimes this year, 2021’s violent crime rates so far are still lower than the city’s 5-year average.
The first event was held on Oct. 10 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. It partnered with Faith & Blue, which organizes faith-based communities and law enforcement agencies to improve police-community relations.
"Our children didn't create this culture, they inherited it," said Gainey at a press conference. "We need a plan to eradicate and create peace in our city. It comes from all of us, from politics to nonprofits. ... We all have a role to play to eliminate [violence] and have more peace in our streets."
Burgess said on Oct. 7 that he desires the various events to help build on his Stop the Violence Fund, which allocates a sum of money equal to 5% of the Pittsburgh city police budget and uses the money for violence prevention. It currently has $2 million.
The initiative is among the police reforms adopted by the Pittsburgh city council last year. In 2020, large scale protests occurred across America and in Pittsburgh in the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. Some cities, like Pittsburgh, adopted some police reforms following the protests.
As part of Gainey’s campaign run, he hopes to reduce the crime rate in the city without adding more police on the streets. He said violence in Pittsburgh is seen as a public health problem, not just a matter of public safety.
Gainey told WESA that if the city wants to get serious about addressing violent crime, it needs to put money into combating structural racism, poverty and drug and alcohol use, among other issues.