Pittsburgh bolstering South Side enforcement this weekend

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Come Friday, revelers on the South Side will encounter a new crowd.

Starting this weekend, a bevy of building inspectors, firefighters and extra police will be deployed during peak problem hours on Fridays and Saturdays to cite out-of-control patrons and unruly establishments that break fire code or occupancy limits. It's the inaugural phase of implementing a citywide, interdepartmental plan to address problems in the entertainment districts.

At a frigid outdoor news conference held in the middle of 16th Street, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said that while the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan would be more "holistic" and long-term, it was apparent the South Side needed immediate attention. He stood just a block away from where five off-duty police officers fired on a car that had fled a traffic stop early Sunday and was speeding down East Carson Street. The driver, who now faces charges, and his mother were wounded.

"It's clear that the South Side area needs attention and it needs it now," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "It's going to require an all-hands-on-deck strategy ... It involves an aggressive approach to public safety."

The mayor's announcement dovetails on recommendations made by the California-based Responsible Hospitality Institute, which was paid $100,000 by the city last year to develop solutions to problems in entertainment districts, particularly in the South Side. A draft version of the report was released in mid-December and made recommendations on a broad range of topics, from zoning, to marketing campaigns encouraging responsibility among college-aged patrons, to alleviating parking issues on the East Carson Street corridor by creating off-site parking. But it focused mostly on public safety issues.

The saturation patrols fall in line with some of the report's recommendations -- for example, the deployment of nighttime building inspectors and firefighters to enforce occupancy limits and fire codes. The mayor also said roving DUI patrols would occasionally be implemented, additional tow trucks would be dispatched to take care of illegally parked cars and police officers would be trained to deal with crowd management.

But he declined to provide figures on the number of officers, inspectors and firefighters to be deployed in the saturation patrols.

"We're not going to go into specifics," he said. "It will be significant."

He said he anticipated it could be costly and advised department heads to "spend what they need to spend."

The mayor employed a similar tactic back in the summer of 2010, deploying building inspectors, police and tow trucks to the South Side. But the effort was halted because of financial constraints.

Jim Peters, of the Responsible Hospitality Institute, said the final version of his agency's report is due out at the end of the next week.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533. First Published January 16, 2013 5:00 AM


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