Pittsburgh had its bloodiest year last year since 1993, reporting a 28 percent increase in homicides, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The police clearance rate for homicides dropped from 75 percent in 2007 to about 49 percent for 2008. Law enforcement officials in Pittsburgh, with a population of 311,000, don’t have any simple explanations for the city’s numbers. Out of the 79 homicide cases investigated by police, 64, or 81 percent, involved firearms. “Our youth today can get a gun quicker than they can get a job or something to eat,” said El Gray, program director for One Vision One Life, an Allegheny County anti-violence initiative.
The falling clearance rate was attributed partly to a larger police workload. Detectives from narcotics, robbery, and other police units are taking 60-day assignments with the city’s homicide squad to help with the case load. After a string of shootings over the summer, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and city Councilman Ricky Burgess announced the creation of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime, which is modeled after a successful Boston program. The program’s architect, professor David Kennedy of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is rafting a plan to target the most violent mini-gangs.