Gainey, Scirotto take the next steps in combating gun violence


Mayor Ed Gainey says ‘comfortability’ is not an option


After nearly 800 days on the job, you’d proba­bly feel very comfortable on your job.

But not Ed Gainey. Actually, don’t even act like you’re about to say the word “comfortable” around Pittsburgh’s first Black mayor.

This is part two of the New Pittsburgh Cou­rier’s series entitled, “Mayor Gainey, Un­filtered,” following a 75-minute conversation the Courier’s editorial board had with Mayor Gainey in January 2024.

And one could say that January 2024 offi­cially marked the start of “part two” of Mayor Gainey’s first four-year term. How was “part one,” or the first two years of Mayor Gainey’s term, received?


Pittsburgh’s Black community continues to feel as though the gun violence is the major issue. You don’t have to tell that to the mayor. He knows the impacts of violence all too well. His friend, Victor Mus­grove, a popular barber who owned VIP Styles Inc., in Downtown, was killed in a shooting in Clairton in August 2023. His sister, Janese Jack­son Talton, was killed in a shooting outside a bar in Homewood in 2016.

As a longtime state representative, May­or Gainey continuous­ly called for a stop to the violence in his East End district and fought for tougher gun laws at the state level in Har­risburg. But as mayor, he might have the magic touch to be able to stop a lot of the gun violence throughout the entire city.

He hired Larry Scirotto as the city’s police chief in May 2023. Scirotto, who is Black, has been trying to determine some of the best ways to make the police depart­ment better. And on Feb. 23, he announced his most sweeping chang­es yet—making officers work four straight days of a 10-hour shift, fol­lowed by three straight days off. He announced that between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., all available of­ficers would be work­ing on the streets and no officers would be in­side the police stations around the city. Instead, a “blue phone” of sorts would be stationed near the door of each police station, and people can use that phone to get in touch with an officer in­stead of looking for an officer inside the sta­tion.

Scirotto also said there would be a creation of an enhanced Telephone Reporting Unit (TRU) operating from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily, includ­ing weekends. Police dispatch would assign reports to the TRU for calls that do not require an in-person response by officers. But TRU would not be assigned to any “in progress” call where a suspect might be on the scene, any crime where a person may need medical aid, domestic disputes, calls with evidence, or where the Mobile Crime Unit would be requested to process a scene.

In simpler terms, po­lice won’t be responding in-person in real-time to every single call, such as if it involves theft, criminal mischief or ha­rassment.

The Courier had previ­ously reported Scirotto’s formation of a Violent Crime Unit, consist­ing of 17 officers, that would focus only on preventing the gun vio­lence that plagues a lot of Pittsburgh’s Black communities.

“We will hold those in­dividuals that are com­mitting to gun violence in our city accountable in a very different way,” Scirotto said during a news conference, Feb. 23.

Two days prior to the news conference, city and police officials cel­ebrated the opening of the new Pittsburgh Po­lice substation, on Wood Street, Downtown. It’s larger, and more visible than the former substa­tion that was perched on the corner of Liber­ty Avenue and Market Street.

In a way, you can’t say Larry Scirotto without saying Ed Gainey. Mix in the mayor’s Plan For Peace, which was outlined to the public far prior to his hiring of Scirotto, and togeth­er they’re joined at the hip in the fight to make Pittsburgh safer. Mayor Gainey said during the Feb. 23 news conference at Pittsburgh Police headquarters that he has full confidence in Scirotto.

When the Courier pressed Mayor Gain­ey in January about whether the reduction of homicides in the city from 71 in 2022 to 52 in 2023 was viewed as “progress” or “still unac­ceptable,” the mayor re­sponded: “Any time you make progress, it’s good, but are we happy with where we’re at? No. We want zero homicides, but I think our Plan For Peace has opened up a lot of doors on how we attack this from many different angles.”

Mayor Gainey stressed that he views violence “as a public health emergency, so we look at it from a public health perspective.”

Also, he told the Couri­er that the city has been dishing out mini-grants to local organizations whose aim is to stop the violence “to help (them) recruit more kids (from going to the streets). We extended our hours in regards to our rec centers at Ammon (Hill District) and Phillips Park (South Side) so kids would have more places to go. And third­ly, people call me, peo­ple text me, people in­box me (about negative things happening in the community),” May­or Gainey said. “When I tell them they need to talk to the police, they don’t want to do it, but we’ve done a lot to try to improve that rela­tionship (between the community and police) and I believe we have. I believe we are doing a great job with that. You always hear me say, ‘If you see something, say something,’ and I think our police have been do­ing a phenomenal job. Everybody’s focused on the fact that we were understaffed (when it comes to police) but why are we not focused on the fact that they’ve helped bring homi­cides down 27 percent? There’s a blessing there, the police and commu­nity working together to solve these homicides.”

Mayor Gainey also said for the reduction of homicides to continue, “it takes all of us, not just government and police. We need the com­munity.”

The year 2024 has seen at least seven homicides within city limits as of Feb. 26. Those homi­cides include a deadly shooting at a baby show­er in Fairywood (West End) in early February, a double shooting in the Hill District in late January that resulted in a death, and in the city’s latest homicide, a 40-year-old man was killed outside a social club on the North Side, early Feb. 24.

“Are we where we need to be? Absolutely not,” Mayor Gainey told the Courier. “I can’t get com­fortable because I don’t come from a communi­ty where comfortability was allowed. I have to continue to go get it ev­ery single day.”

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