PITTSBURGH - City officials said Pittsburgh police officers will take to the streets in an effort to combat the increased number of homicides in the city this year.
“Last month, we saw 11 homicides in the city of Pittsburgh,” said Mayor Bill Peduto.
Acting Chief Regina McDonald said 13 officers will begin walking patrols next week in the eastern neighborhoods of the city that make up the Zone 5 district.
Seventeen of the city’s 44 homicides this year have occurred in that area.
“The idea is for them to get to know the community, and for the community to get to know the officers,” McDonald said.
“I don’t think homicide keeps a calendar or works on an annual basis, so when you see spikes, and can relate it to trends, you need to attack it,” said Peduto.
Police have been working with federal and state agencies to combat drug trafficking in the city, which Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar said seemed to be the cause of much of the violence.
“It seems to revolve around the drug trade, the drug trafficking trade and a lot of violence is being perpetrated by those competing with each other for the finances associated with that trade,” said Bucar.
He also said historically there have been more homicides in warmer months.
Last week, two people were killed in separate shootings in the Northview Heights public housing complex on the North Side, one man was found dead of a gunshot wound in Homewood, and a shooting outside a bar in the Strip District left one man dead and five others injured.
McDonald said the shootings in Northview Heights are drug-related but were not related to each other.
A man's body was found in that housing complex Sunday. Investigators with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office have not determined the cause of death, but public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said police are treating it as suspicious.
McDonald said Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, who heads the North Side police station, is working with the city's housing authority to increase security in the complex.
McDonald also said three detectives have been assigned to the homicide squad, but urged community members to contact police with any information on the shootings. She said 18 of the 44 homicides have been solved.
“We know people are afraid, but at some point we need to take back those communities,” McDonald said.
Police are also increasing patrols in Homewood. That’s where police said a man was shot and killed during a Fourth of July cookout.
Police said they are looking for Zachary Threats in connection to the Homewood shooting. According to police, he hangs out on the East End of Pittsburgh and McKees Rocks. He has also been seen in Sandusky Court and Northview Heights, police said.
Anyone with information on the homicides is asked to call police at 412-323-7161. Callers can remain anonymous.
"If you see something that is not right within your neighborhood, report it. You know, there's a way to stop these crimes from happening if we can get to them early enough,” said Peduto.