Under Mayor Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh has experienced several years of historic crime lows. In 2007, the Mayor appointed former City Fire Chief Michael Huss to serve as his Director of Public Safety. Since 2007, Pittsburgh’s crime rate has declined over 25 percent. Credit for this decline goes to the hardworking professionals of Pittsburgh’s Public Safety Department, the citizens of Pittsburgh, and a public safety strategy that places an emphasis on community-oriented policing, technology, and teamwork.
Director Huss oversees and leads the public safety strategy for the bureaus of Police, Fire, EMS, Emergency Management, Building Inspection, and Animal Control. Improving community and first responder safety through training, technology, fleet upgrades, and increased community visibility are key to the success of this strategy.
In 2009, the public safety first responders' professionalism and capabilities were tested when Pittsburgh was handpicked to host the G-20 summit. Public safety personnel put in more than 1,200 hours of planning and operational support as the City hosted a safe and successful G-20 summit. Cities across the world now look to Pittsburgh as the model for effectively hosting an event of this magnitude. Also in 2009, the department successfully managed victory parades for the City’s championship sports teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Penguins which drew hundreds of thousands of spectators.
Community-oriented, human solutions to law enforcement are the cornerstone of the City’s public safety strategy. The Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC), a dramatic and proactive approach to homicide reduction, continues its efforts to curb violence. Since August 2010, call-in meetings have placed repeat offenders face-to-face with community leaders to vividly illustrate the consequences of violence. Homicides have declined each year since the launch of the program, including a 20 percent decline from 2010 to 2012 alone. Additionally, PIRC’s social service partners have seen a marked increase in at-risk individuals seeking help, with 2013 already outpacing each of the previous three years.
This pro-active stance on crime also extends to fighting nuisance properties. In March 2011, Mayor Ravenstahl and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala launched a Task Force to clean up problem properties. This task force is comprised of representatives of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the City Law department, the District Attorney’s office, and the Bureau of Building Inspection. It has already resulted in dozens of drug-related nuisance evictions, denying criminals the sanctuary they need to operate.
Investments in new technology have also paid dividends. The City of Pittsburgh camera project already has 125 City-owned cameras located across Pittsburgh, with the next phase of the project scheduled for completion by 2013. Nevertheless, communication and human intelligence remain the backbone of Public Safety. Director Huss aims for continually improving collaboration and communication between bureaus as well as strengthening the bureaus' relationship with the community.