By Duke Staff
According to Pittsburgh police, the South Side is on its way to becoming a safer neighborhood. But does the word safer lend the same meaning as safe?
Lt. Larry Scirotto recently spoke to The Duke and reported that since last year, an estimated 30 percent drop in crimes like aggravated assault, arson, robbery, burglary and theft. Also, a 28.7 percent decrease in 911 calls on Friday and Saturday nights was a highlight for the neighborhood since last year (More on Page 1).
Speculation as to why crime has decreased has varied, but Scirotto believes that the development can be attributed to the increase in officers along East Carson Street; a plan constructed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in January.
While all can agree that this development is a positive one for the South Side community and its visitors, the South Side is still statistically lacking in safety.
With over 100 active liquor licenses and a 2012 city police report stating combined crime rates in the South Side slopes and flats neighborhoods as the highest in the Allegheny County, the notion of a safer South Side doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe.
As police are able to enforce the law more swiftly, the environment in which to commit crimes is still just as daunting.
An increase in police surveillance will logically garner a lower crime rate, but this solution is a temporary one. Like an overbearing mother, constant hyper-surveillance is not a healthy decision. One can only ask, what will happen to the South Side when the police blitz returns to normal?
The problem with safety among South Side’s residents and its patrons will still endure as long as the impairment of one’s decisions are encouraged by the densely packed bar scene that South Side offers.
Police should look to change people’s rampant perceptions of the South Side instead of inforcing a hostile environment with heightened surveillance.
For example, the closing of Levelz, a nuisance bar on East Carson this August, was a huge long-term improvement for the neighborhood. Closing more or all of the bars would be impractical and destroy culture on the South Side. But eliminating or improving well known, dangerous areas should be the true focus.
If the newly elected mayor plans to hold his promise, this future may continue to become a reality. Bill Peduto said days before his win that his “goal is to get ahead of the game and clean up the South Side so that it seems out of place for the ludicrous behavior of a few.”
I think you’re right about perceptions and attitudes needing to be changed, and that police work can only go so far, but I disagree with your statement that the police are the ones who should be aiming to alter patron’s perspectives. I also recommend that you double check that statistic for the number of active liquor licenses in the South Side. I know it to be an over-estimate. If you’d like an updated number, please contact the South Side Chamber of Commerce, who has worked quite diligently with other agencies to track down an exact number of what I believe was around 80-something (a mix between bars and restaurants). Your passionate sharing of true information could be a big step in helping the South Side community to change what outsiders are thinking, feeling, doing, etc. while visiting the neighborhood. The Chamber’s got a lot of improvement initiatives going on and, as you mentioned above, their move to close Levelz sports lounge was a great idea! And if you don’t know about the Duquesne Pride in the South Side campaign that the Chamber’s been supporting for a few months now, it’s time you check it out! It’s managed by an alumna who lives in the neighborhood and works closely with the Chamber. It’s a Facebook-only campaign, located at http://www.facebook.com/duquesneprideinthesouthside, but you can also stop by the Chamber at 1100 E. Carson St. for more info.