Jay Gilmer recently told the New Pittsburgh Courier that replacing the street intervention that had previously been done by the, now closed, One Vision One Life was critical to the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime.
What he didn’t say was that he is prepared to do so as soon as the authorizing legislation is approved.
“We will be contracting with someone who can accomplish what we need accomplished,” he said. “We are prepared to go in a different direction with an initiative that includes some of One Vision’s former staffers.”
Gilmer would not reveal the name of the contractor, but said it is a nonprofit that has other resources and has been engaged in street-level outreach to the same target population PIRC tries to reach.
“We have lots of volunteers doing great work, and they are invaluable. But they are volunteers. They are not available 24/7,” he said. “There is a need for dedicated, paid group outreach. They are available all the time, interacting with target population, and presenting the message”
Since its inception, Gilmer said PIRC has received about 100 calls from youths involved in gang activities who’ve sought a way out. Of those, about 1/3 have followed through.
“I could give you an exact count but the successes are fragile because these individuals don’t want rivals to know where they are, or employers to know their past,” he said. “It’s really hard to prove that you made something not occur. But it is happening, with law enforcement, community involvement and service outreach.”
Though Allegheny County has already surpassed last year’s total for homicides, the city numbers are lower. Recent shootings in Lincoln-Larimer, Garfield and Sheridan may or may not have a group component, Gilmer said. Police have issued homicide warrants for 17-year-old Tyqwan Brooks of Larimer and 18-year-old Shawn Jones of Lincoln-Lemington for the killing of 17-year-old Elijah Washington who was found under the Larimer Avenue Bridge Sept. 5.
They have also issued warrants for 26-year-old Gregory “Pretty” Smith of the Hill District in connection with the July 12 shooting of 26-year-old Jaquae Pascal, and for 25-year-old Dana Russell of Carrick for the New Year’s Eve shooting of 23-year-old Donald Russell
“The police know more than I about the nature of these shootings than do at this point,” said Gilmer. “But when it’s more than one guy, and there’s an objective, it’s the kind of activity PIRC can influence.”
He hopes the reintroduction of the street intervention team will spread that influence and further reduce group-related crime in Pittsburgh.
“We want to cover the whole city, so opportunities to change can be presented everywhere,” he said. “We needed (the street intervention piece) yesterday, but we need council authorization to go ahead.”
Gilmer said he expects city Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess to introduce the enabling legislation, but does not know when. Burgess, who was attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., could not be reached for comment by Courier deadline.