Pittsburgh police will take to the streets to combat an uptick in homicides this year, some of them drug-related, city officials said Monday.
Thirteen officers will walk patrols beginning next week in the eastern neighborhoods of the city that make up the Zone 5 police district, which has seen 17 of the city's 44 homicides this year, Acting Chief Regina McDonald said at a press conference.
"The idea is for them to get to know the community, and for the community to get to know the officers," McDonald said.
There were 11 homicides in the city in July. Last week, two people were killed in separate shootings in the Northview Heights public housing complex on the North Side, one man was found dead of a gunshot wound in Homewood, and a shooting outside a bar in the Strip District left one man dead and five others injured.
Police have been working with federal and state agencies to combat drug trafficking in the city, which Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar said seemed to be the cause of much of the violence. He also said historically there have been more homicides in warmer months. There were seven homicides in July 2013.
McDonald said the shootings in Northview Heights are drug-related, but were not related to each other. A man's body was found in that housing complex Sunday. Investigators with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office have not determined the cause of death, but public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler said police are treating it as suspicious.
McDonald said Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, who heads the North Side police station, is working with the city's housing authority to increase security in the complex. McDonald also said three detectives have been assigned to the homicide squad, but urged community members to contact police with any information on the shootings. She said 18 of the 44 homicides have been solved.
"We know people are afraid, but at some point ... we need to take back those communities," McDonald said. Anyone with information on the homicides is asked to call police at 412-323-7161. Callers can remain anonymous.
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