Meeting seeks solutions to gun violence in Pittsburgh's East End

Residents, leaders, police discuss ideas

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The East End has a message: The guns used in violent crimes in their neighborhoods don't originate there.

Rather, they say, suburban junkies come into the city to swap M-16s and AR-15s for a fix.

"They're merchants of death," Zone 5 Cmdr. Tim O'Connor said.

Politicians, community leaders, police, state and national advocates and residents talked about this and other factors contributing to gun violence -- and in the same breath, ways to reduce and eliminate it -- at a town hall meeting Thursday night at the Homewood library.

State Rep. Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, organized the meeting.

"There is no magic wand to end this violence, but there are a whole bunch of tools," he said.

A panel of speakers talked about those tools to the audience of about 100 people.

Legislation, including requiring universal background checks, can create change, said state Senate Democratic leader Jay Costa of Forest Hills.

Surveillance cameras and ShotSpotters, detectors of gunshot locations, can create change, said city Councilman Ricky Burgess.

"Real" conversations about how guns end up in communities can create change, said Ayodeji Young, Homewood football coach and YMCA prevention specialist.

Well-trained and equipped police departments can create change, said Wilkinsburg police Chief Ophelia Coleman, urging residents to pick up the phone and report crimes.

"We've got to get back to turning in our own kids," she said.

Additional police officers -- and prayer -- can create change, said Cmdr. O'Connor.

"This isn't a Homewood thing," Mr. Gainey said. "This is a city of Pittsburgh thing. If we don't come together, you see what happens."

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Lexi Belculfine:, 412-263-1878, or Twitter: @LexiBelc.


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