Extra police to patrol Pittsburgh's Homewood neighborhood

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Pittsburgh police intend to send extra officers to patrol parts of the East End this weekend, monitoring bars and cracking down on illegal bottle clubs in hopes of reducing violence.

Assistant Chief of Operations Maurita Bryant said she authorized Zone 5 Cmdr. Timothy O'Connor to schedule officers to work an overtime detail there on Friday and Saturday nights beginning this weekend.

"It's going to focus on making sure that the bars are closed on time and that none of these illegal bottle clubs are up and operating, and it will hopefully address some of the violence that attaches to these places when they're open either late or illegally open," Cmdr. O'Connor said.

The extra patrols -- which will consist primarily of police but might occasionally include workers from other city agencies -- will begin about two weeks after two people were killed inside Diverse Banquet Hall in Homewood, where police said members of several motorcycle clubs were attending an after-hours gathering.

Similar patrols ran in Homewood this summer, as they have for years, but ended in late August. Cmdr. O'Connor said he had asked officers working those assignments to keep an eye on the Diverse Banquet Hall, whose address has been the site of at least seven police calls since July 2012. The building's owner defended the establishment last week, saying he thought the shooting could have happened anywhere and said he contributes to the community in numerous ways.

Cmdr. O'Connor said officers working the overnight shift in Zone 5 have worked closely with narcotics and vice detectives and with Liquor Control Enforcement agents for years, either shutting down or citing the owners of various bars or after-hours clubs at least seven times in 2012 and 2013.

When groups set up in vacant buildings, without occupancy permits or liquor licenses, Cmdr. O'Connor said, "it's just problematic. Nothing good can come from it."

Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.

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