Safety chief cans expanded South Side police presence

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Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss has nixed a proposed public-private plan to set up an impact squad to patrol the South Side entertainment district.

The plan would have paired 20 off-duty police officers working private security details at South Side bars with 10 on-duty officers to patrol a 12-block area along East Carson street and the streets behind it.

It was developed over the past year through the Responsible Hospitality Institute, the city police department, the district attorney's office, the South Side Chamber of Commerce and the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association.

But at a meeting today, Jim Peters of the hospitality institute told representatives of those groups and others that Mr. Huss would not allow the plan to begin May 17.

Mr. Huss later said he couldn't allow the expansion of the security detail program while there were serious questions about how police bureau employees handled checks paid to hire off-duty officers.

"The priority now is to fix the secondary employment system and the detail office," Mr. Huss said in an interview later. "I'm not going to allow an expansion of the program while we're trying to clean up this mess."

Mike Papariella, owner of Casey's Draft House on the South Side and president of the South Side Bar Association, said he was disappointed by the decision. He said the patrols would have addressed the biggest criticism that bar owners get -- that security officers only stand at the bar door and don't do anything to help problems throughout the neighborhood.

"This would have benefited residents and led to a better, safer South Side for everybody," he said. "We would have had 30 uniformed police officers working the South Side streets."

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Ed Blazina: eblazina@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1470.


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