Pittsburgh PD to Divert More ‘Routine’ Calls to Phone Unit

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911 response by Damian Gadal

Photo by Damian Gadal via Flickr

Pittsburgh police officers will no longer respond automatically to a request for an in-person visit after a minor incident in which there’s no chance of finding evidence or a suspect, reports the city’s Tribune-Review. Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay said he has changed the policy for the department’s Telephone Reporting Unit, staffed by clerks in the Municipal Courts Building, to give officers more time to patrol. “This will take some call pressure off simply by telling people, ‘We’re really sorry, but for this type of routine call, we’re going to have to divert you to the Telephone Reporting Unit,’ ” McLay said. Pittsburgh has been taking reports by phone for years of minor incidents, such as criminal mischief or car accidents with no injuries.

But the new policy adds offenses such as simple assault, harassment, vehicle theft and burglary to crimes that can be diverted to phone banks, which drew criticism from Councilwoman Darlene Harris and others. “Now we’re going to decide who’s going to get a police officer and who’s not, and you’re going to let civilians make that decision,” Harris said. “I think you’re walking down a very dangerous path.” Elizabeth Pittinger, executive director of the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board, said the change concerns her. Having an officer come to your home can be comforting if you’re a victim, she said. “But if you’re upset and you want to see an officer, that’s a big change,” she said.

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