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Demands from Highland Park neighbors to move shooting range hard to achieve, officials say

PITTSBURGH — Officials say demands from neighbors to move a police shooting range will be hard to achieve.

In previous coverage, 11 News told you that some people in the Highland Park area have been fed up with gunfire.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE >>> Some residents asking City of Pittsburgh to make changes regarding open firing range

Channel 11 learned what it would take to meet those demands and how the mayor’s office is responding.

Residents said their recent meeting with the mayor’s office went nowhere, even after the group cited major concerns, such as:

1. Noise - a study deemed that operations on the range far exceed peak levels

2. Location - impacting several densely populated residential neighborhoods

3. Health - lead contamination, runoff, and lingering trauma

Residents played a video from inside the park, in which consecutive gunshots can be heard going off for nearly a minute straight during the middle of the day.

“People are tired of the gunfire and they are tired of the broken promises from the city,” said Stephanie Walsh, president of the Highland Park Community Council.

After collecting hundreds of residents’ signatures and waiting weeks for a closed-door meeting with the mayor’s office, Walsh said they received no clear answers as to why a proposed indoor location wasn’t approved in 2021.

“In the last budget, there was funding allocated to study that site. But the administration chose not to use those funds,” said Walsh

For the past 40 years, Pittsburgh officers have used the outdoor range, located just off Washington Boulevard, for training, but residents in Highland Park, Lincoln-Lemington, Morningside, Stanton Heights and Larimer said the all-day gunfire is triggering.

“It’s now 12:25 p.m. and there is very loud gunfire coming from the police practice range. This is a constant disturbance and happens as early as 5 in the morning and as late as 2 a.m.,” said Walsh as she read neighbor testimonials.

From Chopper 11, you can see just how close the range is to the park. The 2021 proposal would have moved the range farther back, using the former Veteran’s Hospital location to create an indoor range.

“It seems like that would be a good solution. If it was an indoor range, it would definitely reduce the noise,” said Joy Katz, a Highland Park resident.

Not every resident is as hopeful. Some say the cost to build may take years and disrupt police training if a closure happens before a new site is finished.

“You’re talking millions of dollars, maybe $10 million, to build a modern indoor firing range and I just don’t see how that’s feasible,” said Tim Tracy, a Highland Park resident.

Channel 11 reached out to the mayor’s office. They said the range will stay open, but they are committed to allocating funds for a new location in 2024.

The mayor’s office released this statement:

The Mayor is firmly committed to allocating funds in the 2024 Budget to begin design work on a new shooting range that will ensure our officers are adequately trained to handle their firearms. This is a problem that has existed for nearly 40 years and one that does not have an immediate short-term solution. The design and build-out of a new facility will take time and until that is completed, we still have to make sure that our officers are trained to the best of their ability so they can help keep our city safe.

To mitigate issues for residents while we construct our new range, we schedule time for our officers to train at other facilities in the region whenever possible and we restrict Police Academy hours. If people hear gunfire outside of business hours on weekdays or on holidays, we encourage them to contact the city so that we can investigate. The Highland Park Shooting Range will continue in operation at this time.

The mayor’s office also asked residents to report any off-hour gun noise so that they can investigate.

Residents we spoke with say they will continue to push for a more immediate solution.

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