One of the personnel changes he expects to improve homicide clearance rates is the combining of the robbery and homicide units. This has allowed for the creation of a new squad that investigates non-fatal shootings. The move relieves pressure on the homicide detectives––which used to investigate all shootings—and puts more manpower behind solving murders.
But McLay said rather than just release a report filled with dry numbers, he wanted to hold a press conference to praise the work his officers are doing—often spontaneously—to improve the communities they live and work in through community outreach.
“This is a way better police force than our critics realize,” he said.
As an example, Zone 5 Cmdr. Jason Lando said while officers were driving by the East Liberty Gardens housing complex, they noticed some kids pushing each other in a shopping cart because it was all they had to play with. So they went shopping at Target.
“So a while later, the residents see all these police cars rolling up, and they’re like, ‘what’s this?’ Then the guys bring out all these soccer balls and kickballs for the kids and start playing with them,” he said. “It totally turned around the attitude of everyone there.”
In another instance, McLay mentioned that officers who’d just finished an overnight shift, went to walk in a peace march the community had organized. And there’s the quality of the police work being done too, he said.
“Officers arrested three drug dealers who are facing homicide charges because the heroin they sold killed people,” he said.
And even though violent crime is down overall—rape, assaults, robberies—as with the homicides, fewer are being solved. And property crimes actually increase from 2014 to 2015. Still, McLay said complaints against officers are down 40 percent and lawsuits are down 50 percent. And he is especially pleased about the relationships his officers are building with the community which are key to both building trust and creating safer communities.
“I’m very happy with those relationships,” he said. “It ain’t perfect. There’s a lot going on locally and nationally. But there are a lot of really great things going on in Pittsburgh, and I think we don’t always give ourselves the pat on the back we deserve.”
McLay said he would be releasing the latest detailed report on violent crime in the city within two weeks.
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