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Cops will not respond to theft, burglary, other emergencies in major US city

A police car. (Dreamstime/TNS)
March 11, 2024

In response to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police’s “seriously understaffed force,” the department recently announced that police officers will no longer respond to certain calls labeled “in-progress emergencies,” such as harassment, theft, and burglary alarms.

According to 11 Investigates, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Chief Larry Scirotto is hoping to reduce the department’s call volume from roughly 200,000 calls each year to approximately 50,000 calls. As a result, calls for issues such as theft, burglary, and harassment will be reported through a telephone recording unit or through online reporting.

While Scirotto has claimed that the bureau’s change will allow police officers to be better engaged in the local community, many people have expressed safety concerns. “When it comes to harassment and things of this nature, you better have a police officer there,” Councilman Anthony Coghill told 11 Investigates. “That’s what the public expects. That’s what I expect out of our city,”

The outlet also reported that the city’s six police stations will now conduct operations without desk officers from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. Instead of having desk officers, the city will have call boxes linked to 911 for emergency situations. Additionally, as few as 22 police officers may be available to cover overnight shifts in Pittsburgh.

Despite pushback regarding the city’s major policing changes, Scirotto has maintained that the changes will still provide sufficient security for the community. The police chief has claimed that the new staffing plan is intended to maximize the city’s limited resources.

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“There is not any data to support us having our zones manned by personnel from 3 am to 7 am,” Scirotto said. “For the very one off instance I can’t make an exception.”

Sciotto also announced that the city’s police officers will transition from a five 8-hour workday week to a four 10-hour workday, providing officers with an extra day off each week.

Scirotto explained, “An additional day away from work each week to focus on family, friends, or outside pursuits is key to creating a healthy workforce and contributes to the Bureau’s goal of not only recruiting new officers, but retaining them for the long haul.”

In response to the police bureau’s changes, the Pittsburgh Police Officers’ Union provided a statement to 11 Investigates, warning that the changes could lead to potential contract violations.

“The staffing plan designed by police command is a direct response to a seriously understaffed police department,”  Bob Swartzwelder, the union’s president, stated. “Only time will tell if the plan works or the Chief will need to pivot and modify his plan quickly.”