Pittsburgh police officials and a group of South Side bar owners have agreed to share the cost of hiring off-duty officers to clear the streets of rowdy crowds at closing time during busy weekend nights, police Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson said Tuesday.
Bar owners typically pay for uniformed officers to monitor their establishments until they close, usually about 2 a.m. Those owners will now pay the officers to stay an extra hour to help quickly disperse the throngs of people who flood East Carson Street, Chief Donaldson said.
He and other brass met with about 20 bar owners Tuesday to hash out the plan, under which the city also will pay for at least three or four additional officers to work overtime to clear the tavern-saturated thoroughfare, he said.
"It will not be overboard for the city, and we think it will reap a lot of benefits," Chief Donaldson said.
Police have long sought a way to disperse large crowds in the South Side's entertainment district, where loitering bar-goers have caused problems ranging from public urination and loud noise to violence. Crowd control had been largely the responsibility of on-duty officers, but officials were concerned it tied up police manpower in the early hours.
Chief Donaldson said the latest approach will free on-duty officers to handle calls in other neighborhoods.
As many as 30 officers moonlight as security guards on the South Side on any given weekend. Police had considered a plan in which the city would pay each an additional hour of overtime. But police union leaders said that approach violated their contract, which says those called in to work overtime must receive four hours of time-and-a-half pay.
Union president Sgt. Mike LaPorte said Tuesday he felt the union was deliberately not included in the meeting and could not comment on the arrangement.
Among those at the meeting was Mike Papariella, owner of Casey's Draft House in the 1800 block of East Carson. He said he hopes more business owners will be involved in efforts to find a long-term solution to the neighborhood's problems. He urged attendance at a July 16 meeting.
"I don't mind contributing an extra half an hour of my detail officer's time if this is a temporary solution," he said. "We shouldn't have to burden our detail officers with this as a permanent fix."
Sadie Gurman: email@example.com or 412-263-1878.