No homicides in 19 months marks milestone for long-troubled Braddock

John Fetterman takes tragedy in his community seriously. The tattoos on his arm show the dates of every homicide in Braddock since he took over as mayor.

“I’ve done that now nine times since I've been mayor, since 2006. They are jarring and they are heartbreaking,” Fetterman said.

But now, things may be starting to turn around in the community of about 2,150 people that lies in the shadow of a steel mill where jobs have been hard to come by and crime rates have been high.

For 19 months, Braddock has not had a homicide -- a milestone the community takes very seriously.

"Policing is not just locking someone up. It's about getting out there and letting people know who you are and what kind of person you are. You're there to truly help them,” Braddock police Sgt. Guy Collins said.

Braddock police have actively worked to change the department’s community approach over the last several years, focusing more on community engagement and outreach. It’s a long journey that police Chief Frank DeBartolo said is starting to show results.

"I have more people calling the station now telling me and my officers things than we ever had before,” DeBartolo said.

The community’s goal is to make 2017 look much like 2016, with fewer crimes becoming the norm. Fetterman said it will only help make Braddock safe and more attractive as it continues to rebuild.

“The fact my phone hasn't rung at 2:30 in the morning or whenever for 19 months is really something I'm profoundly grateful for,” he said.

Like Braddock, Allegheny County saw a drop in homicides in 2016 -- 49 compared with 57 in 2015. Officials said the numbers are encouraging and they’re hopeful the communities will be safer in 2017.