Allentown is between Mt. Washington and the South Side, the T runs right down its main street, and there is a small business district. But, blight and safety concerns have hampered growth in the area. A little less than two years ago, the Allentown Business District Safety Initiative was launched to address that. Phase I added lighting, gates and fencing to improve the safety of the neighborhood.
“Phase II will add some cameras along the business district and do more lighting and just make it safer to walk the streets,” said Tom Smith, president of Allentown Community Development Corporation.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said five cameras are expected to be placed in the neighborhood sometime in March. He said the city is taking a three-pronged approach to public safety: 1) investing in technology, equipment, and training for police 2) creating more community-oriented policing tools through which communities work with law enforcement 3) creating economic development and implemented blight strategies.
“The city and the URA are working hand in hand to make sure that every neighborhood has an opportunity to thrive,” said Ravenstahl, “we talk often about the city’s third renaissance and I firmly believe we’re in the midst of that, but I’ve also told my staff that we’re only going to be successful in having a third renaissance if it expands beyond downtown.”
Ongoing safety upgrades, plus the Allentown Police Station have resulted in a lower crime rate in the area. Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper called those efforts proactive approaches.
“We don’t want crime to go up,” he said, “we don’t want to come back later and say, ‘we should have had lighting here, we should have had a see-through fence…’ we’re doing that in the forefront. With the camera system that will be put up as well, the technology side of things will enhance our ability to make sure that crime is at a minimum.”
Ravenstahl said such efforts elsewhere in the city are already working.
“2011 marked the sixth consecutive year of crime rates going down in the City of Pittsburgh, we’ve seen those rates drop by 25% since 2006.”
The Allentown safety plan was created following a survey of local businesses conducted by the Mt. Washington Community Development Corporation.