New program hires members of community to diffuse situations among teens

PITTSBURGH — It’s a video that spread quickly across social media. Two teenagers were tased by police and charged following an incident on Murray Avenue earlier this month. In the days following, new faces appeared on the streets.

“It was important to have people who knew the community repair the community,” said David Jones, the assistant director of Community Affairs for Public Safety.

These city residents are part of the “Reach Program,” two of twenty five workers who are working to reduce murders and violence in the city. Lately a lot of the work involves kids.

“Say we get intel that there’s a problem at a school we will have our outreach workers go there test the waters talk to the students, staff principal and there’s something happening fifth period our goal is to stop that fifth period thing,” Jones said.

While you may not see them, they are there working to diffuse situations 24/7.

“Lets say the students are very angry. What can we do to help you, where can we send you to reduce that angry. Just alternatives other than just hanging outside a Starbucks on Murray Avenue,” Jones said.

It’s a concept 20 years in the making, but with a new $2 million grant, the idea is finally in motion. Reach workers hit the street for the first time this year.

They’ve been in schools, at events and even assisting with problems in the Carrick business district.

“The goal is to have them throughout the city all the time but it’s a process and you need the right people and right training so we are going to grow so when you look up we will be there as well,” Jones said.

This program can only work with the information they have so they are asking the public to say something if you see something to help make the program a success.

If you are interested in getting involved you can reach out to Jones at: david.a.jones@pittsburghpa.gov.

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