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Public Safety

Fulfilling the promise of public safety and security requires training, initiatives, and programs that help a community become socially and economically stronger and more stable. Today, the Borough of Wilkinsburg doesn’t have the financial or administrative capacity to provide such initiatives and programs. Merging with the City of Pittsburgh would bring a wide array of affordable public safety benefits to our community that are designed to prevent, reduce, and respond to crime.

These initiatives and programs will strengthen the relationship between citizens and law enforcement while providing education and assistance through community outreach programs. Also, experts in social services, public health, and social work will be available to assist police and other first responders to address the needs of citizens who are struggling to cope with homelessness, substance abuse, or mental health issues.

Table comparing public safety programs in Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg. Both have Citizen's Police Academies and Youth Police Academies. Pittsburgh also has the following programs that Wilkinsburg does not: detective services, a Citizen Police Review Board, a Community Task Force on Police Reform, a Violence Prevention Initiative, year-round youth programs, dedicated training sources, and a dedicated LGBTQI liaison.
The above list considers programs as they are presented in the respective budgets1 2. Detective services refers to the City’s investigative branch comprised of squads and task forces. 3

Wilkinsburg residents pay more per resident for less coverage and fewer resources. The City of Pittsburgh has initiatives and resources at their disposal to address a much broader range of criminal activity than we can. They also have a greater capacity to create reforms and changes in training that are desperately needed in police departments throughout the country.

What are the differences in resources and programs between Wilkinsburg and the City?

Wilkinsburg Police offer a Citizen’s Police Academy, Youth Police Academy, Community Emergency Response Team training, and a program to coordinate block clubs. Eastern Area PreHospital Services, who currently provides EMS for the Borough, offers a Car Seat Safety program, CPR/stop the bleed classes to any organization that requests them for little to no cost, and free flu shots to anyone who wants them on a yearly basis in the Borough4. The Borough also has access to programs that install free smoke detectors, teach prevention of fire and fire-related injuries, and offer weather emergency training. The Borough relies on Allegheny County for services such as homicide investigations. Neither department requires officers to live within their respective communities. 

Pittsburgh has a much larger and comprehensive set of programs. The Office of Community Outreach coordinates numerous programs such as Safer Together Pittsburgh initiative, STOP the Violence initiative, Sports with Officers, Cops & Cones, Chess with Cops, and Cops & Kids Camp. The City also has a community safety website for reporting anonymous tips, real-time crime alerts, and general public safety information. Like the Borough, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has a Citizen’s Police Academy and one for students. Programs offered through the Bureau of Fire would be the same that Borough residents can currently access. The Pittsburgh EMS COPE program provides health screenings and training to residents. Any City resident can request a free consultation in person or virtually to properly fit a child car seat in their vehicle. 

Would Wilkinsburg’s fire or EMS coverage change? 

Wilkinsburg entered into an agreement with the Pittsburgh Fire Department in 2011. Yearly, this agreement saves the Borough $650,000, and firefighters continue to respond from the Borough Building. A merger would not change fire protection coverage or location of the substation. 

Wilkinsburg works with a non-profit, Eastern Area PreHospital Services for EMS coverage. Pittsburgh uses its own EMS division for primary ambulance coverage, and contracts a backup service as needed with Wilkinsburg’s current provider. If we merge, Wilkinsburg would have increased coverage—both the City EMS and current EMS providers could be deployed.

What will happen to our police station if we merge? Will we lose our officers?

We do not have a definitive answer yet, but are confident that the City will retain our local station and transition services in a way similar to the Fire Department merger with the City in 2011. Wilkinsburg police officers know the community, and we hope this knowledge would be retained. A merger would also create opportunities for officers to access additional skills training and career development. 

How does police training compare between Pittsburgh and Wilkinsburg?

Wilkinsburg budgeted $25,000 for general training in 2021 and spent $13,000 for training in 2020. We don’t know yet how much the City spends per officer on training. However, we do know that the Borough contracts with outside agencies for training, while the City has a dedicated Training Academy for their officers and officers from smaller departments. 

Who has more capacity for police reform: the City or Borough?

This year, $5.3 million was transferred from the City police budget to fund the new Office of Community Health and Safety and the Office of Equity, created in 2019. The City is changing its approach to public safety by focusing more on prevention and addressing issues such as mental health and homelessness that are best handled outside of policing. Wilkinsburg does not have the capacity for this type of police reform. 

1.https://www.wilkinsburgpa.gov/2021-fiscal-year-budget/

2.https://pittsburghpa.gov/omb/budgets-reports

3.https://pittsburghpa.gov/police/police-investigations

4.http://www.easternareaems.com/Event-And-Classes.html or call 412-829-8155 for more information

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