Public Safety

Gene J. Puskar / AP

Pittsburgh officials said Monday that global terror attacks have prompted new safety precautions for local Fourth of July celebrations.

Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich promised a noticeably heavier law enforcement presence, including plain clothes police officers and more uniformed patrols near firework viewing areas like Point State Park.

Fired Pittsburgh Sergeant On Stand In Civil Rights Trial

May 25, 2017
Gene J. Puskar / AP

A fired Pittsburgh police sergeant is set to continue testifying in his civil rights trial on charges he wrongly beat a drunken man and then lied about it in a report.

Former Sgt. Stephen Matakovich testified Wednesday that he thought 19-year-old Gabriel Despres was preparing to attack him and that he struck Despres to prevent that.

But federal prosecutors say a surveillance video of the incident doesn't support Matakovich, who is charged with deprivation of civil rights and falsification of a document.

Noah Berger / AP

At least 15 states have allowed police agencies to pilot surveillance drones in the name of public safety, including one that can carry weapons.

This week on 90.5 WESA’s Criminal Injustice podcast, University of Pittsburgh law professor and host David Harris talks to the Cato Institute’s Matthew Feeney from his office in Washington D.C.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

**UPDATED: 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Monday that Pittsburgh Police officers don't have to live inside city limits.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

The president of the South Side Chamber of Commerce said he feels the popular bar district is still a safe place despite a deadly shooting inside the Rowdy Buck bar early Sunday morning.

Keith Srakocic / AP

Americans who live in high-crime neighborhoods often get portrayed as anti-police, but an Urban Institute study released in February shows something different: strong respect for the law and a willingness to help with public safety.

RIDC

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s weekly news program.

Each week reporters, editors and bloggers join veteran journalist and host Kevin Gavin to take an in-depth look at the stories important to the Pittsburgh region.

This week’s topics include a look at why the commonwealth continues to put money into an industrial site to lure businesses to western Pennsylvania. We’ll also look at the public safety issues of mandatory minimum sentencing for violent crimes and withholding of police names after a shooting. And two reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will join us to address changes in the region’s demographics. We'll also mark the passing of Steelers owner Dan Rooney

Associated Press

The state House has passed a bill to keep certain drug and violent crime offenders in prison longer.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

District attorneys from Allegheny, Butler and Washington counties are calling on legislators to restore mandatory minimum sentences for certain crimes.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court invalidated mandatory minimum sentences in 2015, saying criminal defendants did not know the potential sentence they faced until after conviction. Offenders knew their punishment carried at least a fixed punishment time and prosecutors used that to leverage information from an offender.

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.

Kevin Gavin/Sarah Kovash/Pittsburgh City Council

Incumbent Mayor Bill Peduto will face two opponents in the May party primary.

Officials with the Allegheny County Board of Elections confirmed Tuesday that North Side Councilwoman Darlene Harris and former Peduto supporter Rev. John Welch both filed petitions ahead of the 5 p.m. deadline.

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.

Gene J. Puskar / AP

The state police are facing shrinking ranks and a funding shortage as a slew of troopers approach retirement age.

Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed a $25 per-person fee for each of Pennsylvania's 2.5 million residents in nearly 1,300 municipalities that rely on state police coverage instead of a local police force.

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.

Liz Reid / 90.5 FM WESA

This is the third in a three-part web series looking ahead to 2017 with members of Pittsburgh City Council. Find part one here and part two here.

Notorious 86-Year-Old Jewel Thief Strikes Again

Dec 16, 2016
John Bazemore / AP

 

An 86-year-old jewel thief who has kept jewelry sellers on their toes since the 1970s has struck again, police say - this time by slipping a $2,000 diamond necklace into her pocket.

Ephrata Police Department / Facebook

 

A Pennsylvania police department says a black cat was lucky for one of its officers tracking down a fugitive.

The Ephrata Police Department posted on its Facebook page that officers were searching for Jonathan Michael Steffy last month over an outstanding bench warrant.

Google Maps

 

Police are investigating allegedly Satanic graffiti spray-painted onto a central Pennsylvania church.

The vandalism included the digits "666" and upside-down crosses sprayed on the cupola above the roof of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Lancaster County's Manheim Township, about 40 miles southeast of Harrisburg.

The graffiti was discovered Sunday afternoon.

Pastor Michael Rogers said the church has never experienced anything like this. It appeared to be the work of "somebody stupid with something to get out of their system," he said.

Federal Bureau of Prisons

 

Federal prosecutors say an inmate's killing of a guard at a federal prison in Pennsylvania was a calculated slaying that saw the suspect pause to chew a piece of gum he took from the dying man's pocket.

Federal prosecutors detailed the attack in court documents filed Monday, arguing that a jury should see surveillance video showing the 9-minute attack, and 22-minute aftermath in which guard Eric Williams lay dying before other guards arrived.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

 

Police in the Pittsburgh suburbs say they're investigating a woman's claims that an Uber driver made unwanted sexual advances.

Ross Township police said the woman reported the incident about 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday.

The woman says the driver started making advances while driving her to a restaurant. The driver allegedly stopped the vehicle, but the woman says she pushed him away and he continued the ride to the restaurant where she got out and called 911.

Police said the woman wasn't physically harmed.

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. 

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Social justice advocates worry misinformation is preventing formerly incarcerated men and women from casting their ballot.

On Wednesday, for a second straight evening, demonstrators in Charlotte, N.C., protested the fatal shooting of a black man by police. Demonstrators threw objects at police and smashed car windows; officers in riot gear tried to disperse the protesters with tear gas and concussion grenades.

And there was a second shooting — city officials early on Thursday said one civilian shot another at the protests. At a press conference later in the day, Charlotte's police chief said that the department is investigating allegations that the man was shot by a police officer.

The police shooting of a man in Charlotte, N.C., sparked overnight protests and unrest. Protesters threw rocks at police, injuring 16 officers, while police wearing riot gear fired tear gas into the crowds. At one point, a major interstate was shut down as protesters set a fire and vandalized police cars.

Sarah Schneider / 90.5 WESA

Several Pittsburgh City Council members said the city’s police chief and director of public safety assured them during a private briefing Thursday that if a crime against a person is reported in the city, an officer will be available to file a report in person.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

City officials said Monday they’d lost track of who was responsible for testing three flash flood safety gates on Washington Boulevard that malfunctioned Sunday, resulting in the heavy rains submerging two cars. 

First responders used tow ropes to rescue a 54-year-old woman from one of the vehicles. Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich said the woman told him she saw some kind of indication that she should not drive through the street but thought she could make it. It was unclear what indicator she saw. Three passengers were able to escape from a vehicle without assistance.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Body cameras have a way of rapidly de-escalating situations, according to Chief Jeff Besong, the head of Point Park University's Department of Public Safety.

One of his officers recently approached a family in the midst of an argument on the Boulevard of the Allies, and the adult man in the group began swearing at him. As soon as the officer informed the man he was being recorded on a body camera, the profanity ceased, Besong said.

Alex Loy / Twitter

  The city is increasing police patrols and bringing back an advisory council to try to prevent violence among rowdy teens, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said Tuesday.

Police made more than a half dozen arrests after several groups of youths gathered Sunday night in Pittsburgh, the final day of the Three Rivers Regatta.

Witnesses said the teens stopped traffic, jumped on vehicles and knocked into bystanders.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Paramedics and emergency medical technicians want Pittsburghers to know they do a lot more than ride around in an ambulance.

To show off what they do, local emergency responders displayed some of their equipment and services in Market Square Monday as a part of National EMS Week.

“A lot of times on major incidents ambulances come and go before there’s any attention,” said paramedic Crew Chief Jim Dlotowski. “A lot of paramedics live in the background, and even sometimes shy away from attention, but EMS week, that celebrates that career choice.”

Gene J. Puskar / AP

All taxpayers in Pennsylvania pay for the state police, and the state police serves all taxpayers. It just serves some taxpayers a bit more.

According to the Pennsylvania State Police, 1,287 of the 2,561 municipalities in Pennsylvania have no local police force. 

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