‘We will do our part’: 20 drug-related arrests in same area of Downtown Pittsburgh spark concerns

PITTSBURGH — Imagine you see people selling drugs on your way to work. You call 911 to report it. Police make an arrest. Then before you get home that night, the person who was arrested is right back on the street.

“I tell my officers we own a part of the criminal justice system, and we will do our part every time, all of the time,” said Pittsburgh Police Chief Larry Scirotto.

In Mellon Square, Channel 11 watched as a Pittsburgh police officer picked up a needle. A security guard kept watch over the park, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy cleaned up trash.

“Some days are worse than others, but it’s getting a little better,” said Rodney Johnson.

“When we identify those areas that are very harmful to our city, very harmful to downtown, and very harmful to our community, those cases should get treated with special attention,” said Scirotto.

Since June 28, Pittsburgh Police Narcotics and Vice detectives made 20 arrests in the area of Smithfield Street and Mellon Square.

“There has to be accountability for the delivery of drugs,” said Scirotto.

But Scirotto says many of the people they’ve arrested for dealing are back out on the streets committing the same crimes because they were given non-monetary or $1 bonds.

Here’s one recent example.

On June 28, detectives arrested Bradley Dawkins for allegedly selling heroin and other drugs on the corner of Smithfield Street and Oliver Avenue. He got out of jail, and just one week later, they watched him dealing again.

They arrested him, but another judge released him on another non-monetary bond.

“Some have just found that they want to be advocates, and I don’t think they recognize the harm that’s caused by not holding people accountable for delivery drugs,” said Scirotto.

Feet away from Mellon Square, a 25-year-old died after overdosing on July 4.

“We speak about the overdose on the 4th of July,” said Scirotto. “That drug delivery and the person who’s dealing those drugs released from prison are impacting someone in a harmful way. And what do I tell that victim’s family?”

Scirotto says he tells his officers to focus on what they can control.

“And I tell the community if you want to hold the people above us accountable, you have the opportunity to do so when you vote,” said Scirotto.

Scirotto also mentioned that a program is currently in the works that he says will change how quickly suspected dealers are released, if they’re released at all.

In the meantime, he says they’re still going to be doing their job to mitigate drug trafficking in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Channel 11 reached out to the Fifth Judicial District. A spokesperson said they have no comment at this time.

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