Crime

David Goldman / AP

Families of people hurt or killed by police would not learn the identity of the officer involved for 30 days or until the completion of an investigation under a new bill making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

When a group of people is given great power to watch over the rest of us, how do we make sure they use that power correctly?

Pittsburgh’s Citizen Police Review Board was created in 1997 to do just that. 

Charles Krupa / AP

President Donald Trump has called for a return to “law and order” policing and shown support for stop and frisk and heavy use of force. Many modern police leaders aren’t buying in.

This week on 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris looks at one non-member, nonpartisan organization that conducts field studies with real cops to find more nuanced data-driven ways to reduce crime.

Judge Rules Bill Cosby Case To Be Decided By Outside Jury

Feb 27, 2017
Bill Fraser/Bucks County Courrier Times / via AP Pool

 A jury from outside the Philadelphia suburbs will be brought in to decide the sexual assault case against Bill Cosby, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting a defense request to move the trial itself because of worldwide media reports that brand the actor a "serial rapist."

Montgomery County Judge Steven O'Neill said jurors will remain sequestered during Cosby's June trial on charges that he drugged and molested a former Temple University employee in 2004.

Steelers' Joey Porter Fined $300 Over Dispute Outside South Side Bar

Feb 21, 2017
Pittsburgh Bureau of Police

Pittsburgh Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter has been fined $300 after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct stemming from a dispute with a bar bouncer and a police officer last month.

Porter entered the plea Tuesday in City Court in Pittsburgh, ending a case in which he originally faced a serious felony charge of aggravated assault for allegedly grabbing the officer's wrists outside a bar after a bouncer denied him entrance Jan. 8.

Wystan / Flickr

From Obama-era task forces to widespread protests, the idea of community policing has become part of our national conversation. 

On this week's episode of the Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talked to Jerry Clayton, the elected sheriff of Washtenaw County, Mich. Now in his third term, Clayton started overhauling the department of 400 officers eight years ago with service and sustainability in mind.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

The number of Pittsburgh police officers is on track to reach its highest number in 15 years, city officials said just one day after installing new Chief Scott Schubert.

On Friday, a class of seven new Pittsburgh police officers were sworn in – all experienced and coming from other regional departments.

Mayor Bill Peduto said the city has made intentional efforts to attract outside talent.

A Qualitative Study of Youth and the Juvenile Justice System: A 100 Percent Pittsburgh Pilot Project / Pittsburgh Foundation

Youth need more of a say in shaping the juvenile justice system they're a part of, according to a report released Monday by the Pittsburgh Foundation.

LM Otero / AP

In recent years, DNA tests have proved something surprising: people sometimes confess to terrible crimes that they definitely did not commit. One reason seems to be traditional American methods of police interrogation. 

Gerry Bloome / AP

Facial recognition systems look fast and effective in the movies and on television crime shows, but a new report shows that these identification tools suffer from some of the same biases that we’ve heard about when humans try to identify an alleged criminal.

Virginia Alvino Young / 90.5 WESA

A man is injured and in custody after taking several hostages and stabbing six people at Turtle Creek Valley Mental Health in Homestead on Friday afternoon.

Allegheny County Supervisor Coleman McDonough said 38-year-old Dustin Johnson walked into the facility and held multiple people in a fifth-floor staff office. 

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

Just seven weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, the governor of Rio de Janeiro has declared a "state of calamity." Interim Governor Francisco Dornelles says the state's government is bankrupt and can't meet its financial commitments ahead of the games.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

From a corridor outside the intake bays at the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s office, chief examiner Karl Williams takes a mental inventory.

"Thirteen-hundred cases, 1,600 items in every year, around 150,000 tests," he said. "You can’t do analyses of every piece of potential evidence you get in, but we’ve always got it."

Homicides committed outside city limits make up just a fraction of the deaths Williams’ county-wide office oversees, but most murders are evaluated in tandem by multiple agencies, including county and municipal police, pathologists and a spectrum of other agencies tasked with a battery of supplemental tasks.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Hundreds of residents filled South Avenue United Methodist Church in Wilkinsburg on Saturday to talk about crime and community development following Thursday's shooting that killed five people, including a pregnant woman.

Among community members and leaders was Michael Walker, whose son, Jerry Shelton, died in the mass shooting.

“My son was my oldest," Walker told the crowd. "He was a good man. A good, caring and loving man.”

Guy Wathen / Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Reporters rushed to the scene of the shooting in Wilkinsburg in the early hours Thursday to document the shooting deaths and injuries of nine people. Among them, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review multimedia journalist Guy Wathen worked with fellow still photographers to give the paper's online readers a sense of the borough gripped by tragedy.

Wathen spoke with 90.5 WESA’s Larkin Page-Jacobs about his experience.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Borough Councilman Michael Rose posted a snapshot of crime statistics in his community on Facebook just one day before at least two shooters killed six and injured three in an ambush-style shooting in Wilkinsburg.

Aggravated assaults and motor vehicle thefts are up about 40 percent over the past five years, but arson, robbery, burglary and larceny are all down, according to a recent police report, he said.

"You know people say, 'Oh, Wilkinsburg. That stuff happens all the time.' No, it doesn't happen all the time. It's not really who we are, but it's who people think that we are," Rose said.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Updated 4:35 p.m. March 14, 2016.

Robert Morris, 15, glanced across the street and back down.

“I think everybody’s just a little tense right now,” the Propel Braddock Hills High School freshman said. 

Morris heard the gun shots before 11 p.m. Wednesday while watching television with his dad. He rolled off the couch into a ball, "to make myself as small as possible," he said.

Describing the scene, Morris looked again across the street where police say six people died from gunshot wounds sustained in an ambush-style attack.

Bill Thompson / flickr

Two gunmen are still at large following the deadly shooting of five people and an unborn child in Wilkinsburg last night. Police say four women and a man were shot ambush-style during a party and three others were injured and taken to area hospitals. 

We'll hear from 90.5 WESA reporter Noah Brode, who is following the story and attending a news conference with District Attorney Stephen Zappala. We'll also talk with Wilkinsburg school administrators and community businesses about their thoughts on the incident.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Updated 3:37 p.m.  

When Carl Morris orders pizza, delivery drivers ask which side of Ardmore Boulevard he lives on. He tells them it's the east side of Franklin Avenue -- the "good half of Wilkinsburg."

Morris and family huddled in their home late Wednesday night when at least two shooters opened fire on a backyard party across the street at 1304 Franklin Ave. The pair killed six people and injured three in the borough just east of Pittsburgh.

Analyzing Our Fascination With True Life Crime

Jan 20, 2016
Making A Murderer / Netflix

Long before the debut of Netflix’s documentary series Making a Murderer, cable television networks have been devoting programming to true crime investigation shows featuring tales of hometown homicides and vicious serial killers.

But why are we so fascinated with murder and violent crime? 

David Schmid, professor of English at SUNY Buffalo and author of Violence in American Popular Culture says the public’s interest in true crimes, particularly homicides, stems from a need to cope with fear.

Alan Cleaver / Flickr

Pennsylvania Sen. John Wozniak (D-Cambria) introduced new anti-crime legislation that aims to put the consequence of crime at the core of youth education.

“We are ... trying to explain to them that these are the punishments for using an illegal hand gun, the use of drugs at varying levels, and the punishments for shoplifting, the punishment for any myriad of crimes so that these young people realize it’s all not fun and games out there," Wozniak  said Monday. 

Kiewic / Flickr

The postmaster threatened retribution, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said. 

"'You’re going to lose your job,' to one person. He said he was going to kill them, other people he’d tell, 'I'm gonna get you,'" he said.

Daniel P. Davis, regional postmaster for the U.S. Postal Service, was charged Tuesday with four counts each of intimidation of witnesses, official oppression, obstructing the administration of law or other governmental function and criminal coercion.

U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh is elevating one prosecutor in each of four Western Pennsylvania counties to the status of Special Assistant United States Attorney in an effort to fight back against gun crime in the region.

U.S. Attorney David Hickton Tuesday launched the program that will allow cases to more easily move from state to federal court.

“The decision on whether it goes state or federal is usually a collaborative discussion between the U.S. attorney and the district attorney," Hickton said. "And the decision is usually based on where you can get the best sentence. It also is based at the investigative level on the resources that are needed.”

Johnstown’s Tribune-Democrat, in Western Pennsylvania, recently conducted an online survey to evaluate progress on local issues. Johnstown is a shrinking industrial city with a nearly 9-percent unemployment rate, and one of the worst-funded pension systems in the state.

An Update on the Manhunt for Eric Frein

Sep 23, 2014
Matt Slocum / The Associated Press

As the search continues for the man accused of ambushing two state troopers more than a week ago, killing one and wounding another, we'll get an update on the manhunt from AP reporter Michael Rubinkam.

The overall crime rate in Pittsburgh for 2013 was reduced by 6.6 percent over 2012, according to the city’s Department of Public Safety. The drop is credited, primarily, to a decrease in property crimes.

Violent crime is down by 2.6 percent, but when broken down into categories, all violent crime categories, except for robbery, increased. Robbery dropped 15.8 percent over 2012.

The number of rapes is up, but a news release from the Department of Public Safety attributed the rise to the inclusion of male victims in the Uniform Crime Reporting definition of rape.  

Reporter Debrief on the Sentencing of Nate Harper

Feb 26, 2014
File Photo / 90.5 WESA

Former Pittsburgh Police Chief, Nate Harper, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring to create an unauthorized slush fund.

U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon also ordered the 61-year-old Harper to repay $31,986 from the fund that he spent on himself.

90.5 WESA’s reporter Deanna Garcia says the sentencing was not surprising for most people, but Harper’s family and legal team were disappointed.

In the Case of Nate Harper, Does the Punishment Fit the Crime?

Feb 26, 2014
University of Pittsburgh Law School

Roughly one year ago Nate Harper resigned from his post as Pittsburgh Police Chief. Soon after his resignation, Harper was indicted with conspiracy charges and failing to file tax returns.

Yesterday US District Judge Cathy Bissoon sentenced Harper to 18 months in prison as well as repayment of the $31,986 for the slush fund that he spent on himself.

Cambria County Guardianship Agency Under Investigation

Feb 10, 2014
Halle Stockton / Public Source

The Social Security Administration is investigating the alleged embezzlement of funds from a Cambria County guardianship agency, which handles the finances of incapacitated people under its care.

Reporter Halle Stockton has been covering this story for Public Source.

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