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McKeesport officials look for answers to recent violence

February 10, 2017

A recent spate of violence in McKeesport has city officials looking for solutions, including possibly creating recreation programs for the city’s youth.

“It’s getting out of control,” Councilman Timothy Brown said at last week’s council meeting about the violence. He suggested the city start recreation programs for young people to get them off the streets.

On Jan. 29, three separate shooting incidents occurred in McKeesport. Two people were injured and a total of nearly 50 shots were fired in the shootings, which took place in the areas of Soles, Beaver and Stewart streets and Grandview Avenue.

McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said January is typically a quiet month for crime, but that wasn’t the case last month when the city saw 129 arrests and police averaged about 60 calls a day.

However, he said, statistics show that overall gun violence in McKeesport decreased from 2015 to 2016.

In 2015, 11 homicides occurred in the city, 10 involving guns. In 2016, the city had four homicides, two due to gun violence. The police department also received fewer “shots fired” calls in 2016, he said.

“It’s still two too many,” he said of the 2016 homicides.

“We’re going to continue to police,” he said.

Mr. Cherepko said the “randomness” of the recent shootings is the scariest aspect.

“These three over the weekend were outright bad luck” and not related, he said, but “it’s not good at all.”

Mr. Cherepko said the city is working on a summer program for youth, but, “Unfortunately we live in a time, where in my opinion, we’re provided less money toward youth programs when we should be provided more.”

“Programs are getting cut,” he said, but he added “the gist of these problems is in the home.”

Councilwoman LuEthel Nesbit agreed, saying, “The missing piece in all of this is the parents.”

Council suggested the city look into writing a grant to purchase a program such as Shotspotter, software that immediately alerts police when shots are fired.

Also at the Feb. 1 meeting, Councilwoman V. Fawn Walker-Montgomery suggested hosting informational meetings on the dangers of heroin and opioids.

Mr. Cherepko said he would talk with officials from UPMC McKeesport about coordinating a program.

Councilman James Barry noted that 32 opioid overdoses occurred in McKeesport in 2015.

“Where we could serve could be more for the families,” Mr. Cherepko said. “The heroin epidemic doesn’t discriminate. I’m seeing really good families struggling with this with their family members.”

Also at the meeting, council approved site plans for a new O’Reilly Auto Parts store at 3711 Walnut St.

Post Gazette: McKeesport