Mayor calls all hands on deck with safety blitz of the South Side Flats
South Sider Mary Lou Collinger, flanked by city officials, says it’s okay to come to South Side to “party,” but to be respectful of the people who live there. Ms. Collinger joined Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Councilman Bruce Kraus and Responsible Hospitality Institute’s Jim Peters in an announcement of an “all hands on deck” strategy to address the neighborhoods public safety and quality of life issues.
The initial results of the South Side public safety blitz included 19 arrests, 94 citations, 42 towed vehicles and 14 non-traffic citations issued on Friday night.
No bars were reported as being cited for overcrowding by fire department officials and building inspectors during the late Friday night and early Saturday morning inspections.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl last week, joined by city public safety officials, announced the aggressive enforcement blitz to restore safety to the South Side business district and nearby residential area.
The announcement follows a year-long study by the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) that brought together residents, business owners, community stakeholders and government leaders to identify and propose quality of life and safety recommendations. While the study looked at strategies to improve all city business districts with a nighttime economy, the mayor directed city efforts to be focused immediately at restoring civility to the South Side.
“It is clear that we need an all-hands-on-deck strategy to restore safety to the South Side neighborhood,” Mr. Ravenstahl said. “This study has great recommendations that will improve certain aspects of the South Side, such as enhanced cooperation among bar and restaurant owners and plans to improve parking and transportation. These strategies, and others, will ultimately lessen the burden on our public safety officers, but we must take action now to restore order to this neighborhood. ”
The short-term solution to improving the quality of life for South Side residents involves an aggressive approach to public safety. Beginning last Friday, the strategy increases the deployment of building inspectors and firefighters who will crack down on overcrowded bars violating the building code.
In addition nearly two-dozen additional police participated in “alleyway” saturation patrols citing for disorderly conduct, such as public drunkenness and urination. Roving DUI patrols and towing enforcement were also increased. Public works crews were also increased for litter pick-ups and trash removal.
The additional enforcement will continue for an undetermined about of time. The mayor and safety officials met with bar owners last week to inform them of the enforcement blitz.
“I have directed my public safety chiefs to continue this enforcement blitz for as long as it takes to restore the quality of life that each and every Pittsburgh resident deserves,” Mr. Ravenstahl said. “This will not be a once in a while tactic. Every weekend, we will have this ramped up enforcement. If you go to the South Side and take part in any illegal activity, chances are you will be cited or arrested.”
In addition to this blitz, other mid- and long-term recommendations of the study, officially called The Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan, will be implemented that will ultimately lessen the need for aggressive enforcement. The mayor has charged the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police to develop an enhanced training program for officers who will specifically deal with the nighttime management of entertainment destinations.
Through the Sociable City Plan, the city is conducting meetings to focus on how to adapt parking systems to meet nighttime demand, support services required for security and enforcement, and enhance revenue. The goal is to encourage employees and patrons to use remote parking areas with shuttle services in order to free up neighborhood parking space for residents.
One proposed plan is to utilize the parking area near the 10th Street Bridge as a pilot location for remote parking.
In addition, Councilman Bruce Kraus and RHI will partner with UPMC, Dollar Bank and local universities to develop a social marketing campaign that addresses patron personal accountability and public behavior.
Since the study was launched last April, the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association became engaged, enhanced communication has taken place between police and bar owners. More than 200 stakeholders, representing 17 governmental departments and agencies, 47 businesses, 20 community groups and several universities, have attended strategic meetings leading to the formation of the plan.