Starting Friday night, restaurant, bar, and club goers in Pittsburgh’s South Side will see more police officers, along with building inspectors and firefighters on the lookout for overcrowding.
“We will bring back the alleyway saturation patrols who will be on the lookout to cite for disorderly conduct such as public drunkenness and urination,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, “we will also, from time to time, on any given weekend, launch roving DUI patrols, and every weekend we will increase our towing enforcement here on the South Side.”
This comes after a year-long study by the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) addressing safety concerns in the area that includes East Carson Street. The more aggressive enforcement effort will be only part of the work to increase safety. Ravenstahl said other recommendations will be implemented that will lessen the need for aggressive enforcement over time.
“The Bureau of Police is developing an enhanced training program with a group of specialized officers who will specifically deal with the nighttime management of entertainment destinations. These officers will specialize in tactics such as crowd control and management. That work will begin immediately,” said Ravenstahl.
Other long-term plans will address parking, transportation to and from the South Side, and there will be a social media campaign that will emphasize personal responsibility. Residents and business owners in the South Side have complained about the behavior seen on Friday and Saturday nights. Lifelong South Side resident Mary Lou Collinger said she and fellow residents aren’t asking people not to come to the area, but to be aware that people live there.
“We are the homeowners, we are the taxpayers, we are the residents, we are the South Side, and we welcome you to our community, but we expect you to be respectful of the community and to those who live here,” she said.
City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents the neighborhood, has been a long-time proponent of increasing safety efforts in the area. He said the ultimate goal is to see the South Side thrive.
“This is not about prohibition. This is not about coming out and punishing good and responsible businesses. We encourage responsible businesses, we want you to do well and we want you to thrive, but we want to be sure that the law and what exists in law is the baseline,” he said.
To formulate a safety plan, RHI looked to other cities that faced similar problems, including Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC. Ravenstahl wouldn’t go into exact detail about the number of officers and others who will be working, though he said the number is significant.