MCKEESPORT, Pa. — State Attorney General Josh Shapiro was joined by state lawmakers and local law enforcement officials Thursday to announce the progress being made on combating crime in McKeesport.
“It’s not one drug or one gang or one violent enterprise that we confront,” Shapiro said. “No, instead, it’s clusters of violence, and people peddling poisons.”
Last July, Shapiro’s office launched a Strategic Response Team involving a collaboration with Mon Valley police departments. In the months since, 71 arrests have been made, and investigators have seized 46 guns, including three “ghost” guns. Large quantities of drugs have been seized as well, including heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine and crystal meth.
“It is a confirmation that law enforcement collaboration works,” Shapiro said, “and it is also a call for further action.”
Shapiro, who is running for governor as a Democrat, called for more police officers statewide and better funding for departments. That position is in line with that held by numerous Republicans vying to defeat him in November, whose campaigns have at times focused on supporting law enforcement and decrying the “defund the police” movement.
“We need to hire more police in Pennsylvania, right now,” Shapiro said. “More police with time to form relationships with people in the communities they serve, so they can do good, collaborative investigative police work and stop the violence.”
The gubernatorial candidate said he’s called on the general assembly to address “historic staffing shortages” departments are facing, calling the matter a “statewide emergency.”
Shapiro expressed his support for additional funding, which could be used for mental health units or even signing bonuses for new recruits, he said.
Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert and McKeesport Police Chief Adam Alfer stood alongside Shapiro, both expressing a need for more officers.
“The candidates aren’t there,” Alfer said. “People aren’t wanting to be the police anymore, and we need candidates, we need applicants, and I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of the departments that are hiring officers now.”
“The numbers aren’t there like they were before, which creates a challenge, not just in staffing but a challenge in diversity,” Schubert said, noting that each year, the department loses an average of 26 to 27 officers to other agencies.
“Here’s me to the public: we need you in policing,” Schubert said. “Your communities need you in policing. This is a noble profession, it’s a dangerous profession, but you get so much out of it ... be the change you want to see in policing and come help make your communities safe.”
Channel 11 spoke with local residents following the press conference.
Faye Dewalt said she is afraid to walk the streets in McKeesport alone, “even if it’s daylight.” She was in support of law enforcement efforts to arrest suspected criminals.
“It’d be good if they’d get everybody like that off the street,” she said.
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