The Lead

Pgh Mayor Gainey addresses safety concerns at packed meeting Downtown

By: - February 9, 2023 4:33 pm
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey speaks during a live-streamed 6/27/22 press conference

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey speaks during a live-streamed press conference on Monday, 6/27/22 (Pittsburgh City Paper screen capture).

PITTSBURGH — Mayor Ed Gainey told an audience of Downtown business owners and residents Thursday that his administration has a plan to address safety in the city’s core, but that without changes to gun laws, they likely would not have enough impact. 

“The environment we live in now, they don’t fight, they shoot,” Gainey said of people, particularly teenagers, who want to get their hands on guns. “They don’t care where it’s at, they shoot.” 

He added that the problem wasn’t confined to Downtown, to Pittsburgh, or to Pennsylvania. 

“This is all over. We live in a culture where guns [are] the number one community tool for death,” Gainey said, calling on the audience to contact their state representatives to push for more gun safety laws “to bring forth new order.”

Gainey also told the roughly 400 people in an auditorium at the Union Trust Building that his administration was working on figuring out how to help the city’s unhoused population. 

He said that did not mean arresting them and putting them in jail, and added that with the Second Avenue Commons shelter at capacity, there were few other current options available for people.

“For those who thought we should just put them in jail, they’ll be out in 48 hours, and may be more vicious because of the trauma they have already,” he said. “There was never a plan for additional housing, there was never a plan for affordability. We’re creating it now. We’re creating this as we go.”

Gainey wrote in a letter to Downtown groups last week that he planned to triple the number of police officers in Downtown Pittsburgh, and increase garbage collection. The city is also creating a public safety ambassador program made up of civilians who will deal with non-criminal issues and help connect people to mental health services, according to the letter.

On Thursday, Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief Chris Ragland said that by the end of March, there will be 18 officers, two sergeants and a lieutenant at a dedicated Downtown public safety center. 

But Gainey cautioned that it will take time to see results.

“I’m not going to bring you a hypothetical and make it sound good,” Gainey said. “I’m going to show you the plan and let you be the judge. So at the end of the day, when you leave here, you won’t think that this is just another plan, that we’re just talking. Here’s a plan that we’ve been thinking about for four or five months to do it right.”

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly