Public Safety

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

The acting commissioner for the State Police is poised for a full state Senate vote after receiving unanimous approval from a key committee on Tuesday.  

Colonel Tyree Blocker is returning to the agency 10 years after he retired. 

Daveynin / Flickr

The state House has passed a measure supporters say would provide more protection to police officers who use their gun or any act of force while on the job.  

Gov. Tom Wolf is asking Pennsylvania residents to be vigilant and report suspicious activity following the Paris terror attacks but says "there remains no known imminent threat" to the commonwealth.

Wolf said the Office of Homeland Security has advised him that police in Philadelphia have stepped up security for the weekend. He said citizens may also experience increased security in other areas of the commonwealth.

The governor said Pennsylvania residents "should be vigilant, remain patient and be respectful" to law enforcement officers.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is consolidating squads this September in an effort to better address violent crime, Chief Cameron McLay announced Tuesday.

Homicide and robbery squads will combine to form one Violent Crime Unit responsible for investigating homicides, aggravated assaults, robberies and shootings. Commanders at each of the five zone stations also created a universal protocol to respond to community violence. Previously, each had their own best practices.

City of Pittsburgh

Pennsylvanians can take to the streets Tuesday advocating for crime prevention and getting to know their first responders as part of the 32nd annual National Night Out Against Crime.

Founder Matt Peskin said 356 neighborhoods and municipalities have registered statewide, including more than 50 in the Pittsburgh area alone.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Dozens of members of the Service Employees International Union packed Pittsburgh City Council chambers Wednesday morning for a preliminary vote on a bill that would mandate increased training for security guards in the city.

Two unrelated missing persons cases were solved when the bodies of the men each surfaced separately downstream in a river in West Virginia in recent days — with the death of one of the Pittsburgh men now being treated as a homicide, police said.

The cases of Andre Gray, 34, and Paul Kochu, 22, aren't related, except by the coincidence that their bodies each surfaced in the Ohio River in recent days, likely because of the spring thaw, city police Cmdr. RaShall Brackney said at a Thursday night news conference. Bodies can remain submerged for weeks or months when rivers are icy or the water is near freezing, but rise to the surface as temperatures warm.

Samm Hodges

The city of Pittsburgh’s Office of Municipal Investigations is looking into the use of force against an African American man wanted on two warrants after a police chase on Wednesday.

Devon Davis, 23, of the North Side was apprehended by police, who said he “sustained injuries to both legs as a result of the vehicle crash” after a car he was driving collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Wood St. and Ft. Pitt Blvd.

But at least one witness to the subsequent foot chase and arrest said Davis did not appear to be injured when he was running from police.

Five buildings burned as part of an early Friday apartment fire that spread to neighboring structures in the business district of a poorer suburb of Pittsburgh.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. Two residents rescued from a second-story window of the apartment building in Homestead were taken to a hospital for evaluation, but it wasn't clear if they were injured, said Alvin Henderson, chief of emergency services for Allegheny County.

After voting in favor of a 2015 budget amendment that would speed up the timeline for deployment of body-worn cameras for police officers, Councilman Dan Gilman on Wednesday held a post-agenda meeting on surveillance and privacy.

Pittsburgh has seen 60 homicides in 2014, and more than a third of them were in Police Zone 5, which encompasses Homewood, Larimer, Highland Park, Stanton Heights, Bloomfield, and Friendship.

Now, with the help of the state, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is set to pump nearly $100,000 into an ongoing investigation into gun and gang violence, specifically in Homewood and neighboring Wilkinsburg.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Mark Bocian has been Pittsburgh’s Acting Chief of  the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services for more than two years now, but City Council indicated in their Wednesday committee meeting that the wait for final confirmation is nearly over.

Bocian was met with resounding approval, as lawmaker after lawmaker extolled his virtues and thanked him for his service.

That service stretches back to 1975, when Bocian was hired as an Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT.

AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Halloween is supposed to be full of treats and colorful costumes and a few harmless scares, but health and safety advocates are warning about potential dangers for trick-or-treaters.

More than twice as many children are killed in pedestrian/vehicle accidents on Halloween than on any other day of the year. Dave Phillips, spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said government data shows that 115 children nationwide have died from being struck by a vehicle on Halloween from 1990-2010.

Another year, another Allegheny County budget proposal attempting to patch together funds for the Department of Emergency Services but the years of complaining by the County Executive might be about to bear fruit.

The 911 center operated last year at a loss of $6 million, according to County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and though underfunding isn’t a new issue, he fears what lower than needed state funding could mean for the future.  Fitzgerald’s proposed $839.2 million budget for 2015 includes an increased cash match to plug the gap.

Discussing the Threat Posed by Aging Natural Gas Lines

Sep 25, 2014
Consumers Energy / Flickr

In the last 10 years, accidents involving gas distribution lines killed more than 120 people and injured more than 500. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Mike Wereschagin discusses his recent series on the complications, dangers and costs of managing gas lines that are, in some cases, 100 years old.

Whistl Mobile Safety Device

Sep 2, 2014
Jayon Wang / Lifeshel

The past year has seen a number of news stories about safety on college campuses. From Time magazine’s cover story on sexual assaults to a Forbes magazine article on the Clery Act, which requires colleges and universities to compile and publish data on campus crimes.

Campus safety was one of the motivating forces behind the development of the personal safety device Whistl. Jayon Wang, CEO and Co-founder of LifeShel, a device company creating smartphone cases, talks about Whistl.

National Night Out Set for Tuesday

Aug 4, 2014
Kaye Burnet / WESA

For 30 years the City of Pittsburgh has joined other communities across the country in celebrating National Night Out Against Crime, and this year the city is expanding its activities to get residents involved in their neighborhoods to make them safer and help deter crime.

“National Night Out started as the nation’s night out against crime, an opportunity for neighbors to get together, to know each other, to help each other out,” says Liz Style, coordinator for the Department of Public Safety's "Safer Together" outreach program.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is one step closer to filling out his administration, as City Council Wednesday held hearings on the mayor’s recent Public Safety and Management & Budget appointments.

For more than two hours, Acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar took notes as he was peppered with questions, concerns and suggestions from council members.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Another country concert is coming to Pittsburgh, and this time the city is preparing with new rules and increased law enforcement to gear up for Jason Aldean’s 38,000 fans at PNC Park this Saturday.

City officials announced Tuesday that parking lots will open at 2 p.m., instead of 11 a.m. and parking lot operators will be handing out trash and recycling bags to concert goers. The number of port-o-johns has been increased from 160 to 200. Tailgating once the concert begins is not permitted; anyone without a ticket at 7:30 p.m. will be asked to leave.

Since before taking office, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has been promising that when it came time to hire a new police chief, the public would have ample opportunity to influence the process.  Today, he and Acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar laid out plans for six public meetings and a website dedicated to taking additional input. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh’s new acting public safety director started work this week with former Public Safety Director Michael Huss staying on for the transition. Stephan Bucar was most recently a supervisory special agent section chief in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, he will now head the city’s Department of Public Safety.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced Wednesday that he has chosen FBI Special Agent Stephen A. Bucar as the city's new public safety director.

Bucar is currently assigned to the Washington, D.C. FBI office as a Supervisory Special Agent Section Chief in the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. Peduto points out that Bucar has experience overseeing the analysis of information associated with domestic and international terrorism at both the federal level and for New York City.

Officials say four students were believed to be the most seriously injured Wednesday morning by a fellow student who stabbed or slashed others at Forbes Regional Medical Center, injuring as many as 20.

Westmoreland County emergency management spokesman Dan Stevens says not all of the 20 injured were cut by the knife, though most were. Some suffered scrapes and cuts in the mayhem that ensued.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

St. Patrick’s Day is Monday,, but the Steel City’s celebration will take place Saturday, starting with a parade and continuing with partying and revelry throughout the city.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has announced a joint DUI enforcement effort with the Pennsylvania DUI Association, the PA Liquor Control Board and local law enforcement.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

Mayor Bill Peduto said he is not rushing to fill two of the most high profile vacant positions in the city: public safety director and police chief.

In a Monday interview with Essential Pittsburgh’s Paul Guggenheimer, Peduto said it is more important to find the right person for those positions than it is to get them filled right away.

Pretty soon there will be more police officers, firefighters, paramedics and building inspectors on the ground in Pittsburgh.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced this week he has authorized one class of police officers to begin training in March followed by another class in the fall, with the possibility of a third, one class of firefighters to begin as soon as possible and the hiring of more paramedics.

As the region begins to experience low temperatures not seen for nearly two decades, city and county officials are preparing for the worst.

Allegheny County has joined up with city officials to staff the Emergency Operations Center.

The Associated Press reports temperatures will continue to fall throughout the day and will not stop until hitting an expected low of nine below zero. Wind gusts of up to 30 miles an hour will result in wind chills of 31 below zero.

Ending Street Harassment in Pittsburgh

Dec 6, 2013
Hollaback! Pittsburgh /

Street harassment is a public form of sexual harassment that many people have witnessed, experienced, or engaged in.

For the most part, women are told to ignore cat calls and lewd behavior when walking down the street, but what if it happens on a daily basis?

Hollaback is an online initiative that was created in New York City to give people a place to vent or talk about their experiences with public harassment.

Now four Pittsburgh women have formed a local chapter of Hollaback.

Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Update: 7:39 a.m. Thursday

Pittsburgh police have charged a 16-year-old student with shooting three others outside a high school, allegedly in retaliation for a drug-related robbery inside the school last month.

None of the students wounded minutes after Brashear High School dismissed classes Wednesday has life-threatening injuries. Police say two were grazed by bullets, while one was shot in the arm and foot. Police say a fourth was targeted but not hurt.

On July 20, 17-year-old Emily Jancart of Moon Township was struck and killed while riding her bike in that community.

This most recent bike-related death is the fifth in the Pittsburgh area in the last two years, prompting Bike Pittsburgh to sponsor advertisements around the city as part of a public awareness program to protect cyclists. 

According to Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker, they just want to remind motorists to be more alert while sharing the road with cyclists.