Mayor Gainey releases his highly-anticipated ‘Plan for Peace’

PITTSBURGH MAYOR ED GAINEY SAYS HE’S FULLY COMMITTED to ending the gun violence plaguing Pittsburgh’s Black communities. He outlined his new “Plan for Peace” in Beltzhoover, June 3. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)

 

Getting ‘most violent’ offenders off the street is greatest concern

 

For a city so rich in history, so rich in architecture, so prideful in its sports teams, there is a less-than-stellar faction of Pittsburgh that new Mayor Ed Gainey promises to fight head-on.

In fact, he says he’s “committed” to ending the “senseless” gun violence plaguing Pittsburgh’s predominantly Black neighborhoods, gun violence that the mayor admitted has been on the rise in recent months.

Gainey, Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor, stood tall on Gearing Avenue in Beltzhoover, June 3, the sun beaming overhead, in announcing “Pittsburgh’s Plan for Peace.” It’s a plan that’s taken months to create; a holistic approach to ending the violence. Some media members pointed out that a “holistic” approach has been proposed in previous years to stem the violence by previous administrations, but there’s one major component that’s different about Mayor Gainey’s plan—he is African American. It’s people that he knows who are dying, families that he knows who are forever impacted by the violence. Mayor Gainey didn’t take a residence in Squirrel Hill, Point Breeze or Shadyside as mayor—he comfortably, confidently resides in the primarily Black Lincoln-Lemington area.

For Mayor Gainey, this plan for peace is personal.

“These are our children. This is our city,” Mayor Gainey said during his news conference, June 3. “We’re committed to a bold vision of ending violence and making Pittsburgh a city that is safe for everyone. Peace is all of our responsibility. I’m committed to this. I’m committed to public safety.”

 

The Pittsburgh Plan for Peace involves six categories:

 

Public Health Approach

 

The Right Policing

 

Person-Centered Supports

 

Community Partnership

 

A Healthy Economy 

 

Data and Evidence

 

“Pittsburgh’s Plan for Peace” involves six categories: Public Health Approach, The Right Policing, Person-Centered Supports, Community Partnership, A Healthy Economy, and Data and Evidence.

Mayor Gainey said that the real focus will be on about 200 people, in groups of 8 to 10, who are committing most of the violent crimes in Pittsburgh.  The mayor said it’s those few hundred in question in various areas of Pittsburgh that need to be taken off the streets.

Sure, from a public health approach, some of those few hundred can be reached and offered certain public health-related solutions. “But some of the ones that you hear me talking about, they’re not teenagers,” Mayor Gainey said. “They’re in their 30s. This is their way of life. This is what they do. We have to get them off the street.”

Mayor Gainey will ultimately choose Pittsburgh’s next police chief, following the resignation of Scott Schubert (who will be taking a job with the FBI in West Virginia). Schubert’s resignation/retirement is effective July 1. The mayor almost assuredly will select a chief who is committed to fostering community partnerships. He spoke at the June 3 news conference that his plan of “the right policing” means “creating a culture within our Bureau of Police that fosters and emphasizes community relationships, as well as to meet law enforcement’s goals. Only when our officers and community work together do we see safe communities.”

The fifth part of the mayor’s plan for peace involves a healthy economy. Part of the holistic approach is addressing how years of disinvestment and a lack of high-paying jobs in the Black community have contributed to a culture where illegalities could seem to be the only option.

“To begin the revitalization of these communities,” Mayor Gainey said, “we will be working to improve housing developments, better education outcomes, successful businesses, increased health care access and other needed amenities to thrive.”

Pittsburgh’s Black community is often faced with this question; is the gun violence that’s happening now worse than what it was during the gang wars of the ‘90s? Depending on who you ask, you get varying answers. Some say the violence decades ago was more “organized” and occurred much more often at night than in broad daylight. Others say today’s violence is more dangerous because it’s more “sporadic,” can happen at any time, and seems to be more “incredulous,” such as the tragic shooting death of 18-month-old De’Avry Thomas. He was not the intended target when a drive-by shooting in Downtown Pittsburgh claimed his life in broad daylight on May 29.

“We know that the real cause of violence is concentrated poverty, institutional racism, trauma-induced hopelessness and the lack of any sensible gun regulation,” added Pittsburgh City Councilmember Rev. Ricky Burgess. “And now our kids are armed to the teeth with assault rifles and large magazines. But the Pittsburgh Plan for Peace is a comprehensive, coordinated, public health approach to violence reduction.”

If you can think of the anti-violence organization, they’re probably involved in the mayor’s holistic plan for peace. Everyone from those involved in faith-based groups, to the city’s Group Violence Intervention team, to mental health professionals, and of course law enforcement, is trying to unify as one to stop what is Pittsburgh’s number one problem.

“Every life is precious, and it is unacceptable for us to lose anyone to senseless gun violence,” Mayor Gainey said. “The work is an investment into the safety of our city, the future of our children and grandchildren, and the humanity of everyone who lives, works, plays and visits our city.”

Mayor Gainey expressed that in his early days as a member of the Pa. state House, he told the General Assembly that young people ages 18-21 were getting easy access to guns, and “if we don’t do anything to change the law right now, they’ll get younger.”

Fast forward to today, and now, “14, 15, 16, 17-year-olds are getting guns,” Mayor Gainey said. “What’s the next 10 years going to bring? 9, 10, 11, 12-year-olds (with guns)? If we don’t do some responsible gun laws at the state and federal level, this can’t get better.”

The mayor added: “I fought my whole life to reduce crime, particularly gun violence. That will never stop. That’s the only way we ensure an environment that is safe for our children.”

Mayor Gainey, who grew up in Pittsburgh’s East End and graduated from Peabody High School, said that his plan is a plan that must be implemented for the next 20, 30 years. He said he doesn’t want to be, in effect, jumping for joy, if crime is reduced in the short-term, only to watch those involved in the plan let up, and then the crime rates go back up.

“If we don’t take this seriously every single day,” Mayor Gainey said, “we’ll go back to yesterday. But I don’t want to go back there.”

Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt said during the news conference that an outside consultancy firm will analyze how many more officers the Pittsburgh Police department may need to help implement Mayor Gainey’s plan of community policing.

Councilman Burgess, who called Mayor Gainey “my mayor,” and whose district includes Homewood and East Liberty, added: “Our message to every resident is that we are going to keep you safe. Those who do not want to change their life, then they have to deal with the consequences of law enforcement. But for those who do want to change their life, we’re going to provide them with every resource, every encouragement.”

 

 

 

 

 

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