O’Connor takes to the streets
The shuttered Horoscope Lounge in Garfield once was a magnet for criminal activity, but Wednesday it became the starting line for Mayor Bob O’Connor’s block-by-block march to curb drug dealing and gun violence.
O’Connor held a roving news conference along Penn Avenue to point out how he plans to make good on campaign promises to eliminate open-air drug dealing and clean up littered city streets.
In his naturally easygoing style, O’Connor picked up a plastic bottle from the sidewalk and threw it into a trash can. A few blocks later, he offered to show the new owner of a Penn Avenue furniture store “how to push a broom.” He even took time to stop at the Penn Aiken Dairy convenience store to remind the shopkeeper to keep vagrants from loitering outside.
“We’re going to clean up, whether it be guns, drugs, whatever’s here, we want to show the targets, and show the people in Pittsburgh we mean business,” O’Connor said while standing at the corner of Penn Avenue and North Graham Street, near the lounge.
The owners of the Horoscope Lounge agreed to close the bar March 3, two days after a bouncer survived a shooting in front of the bar. Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said the bar was plagued by gun and drug crime for more than a decade.
O’Connor said he’s asked city police to “park and walk” through Garfield.
“I’m not satisfied. I don’t need them riding around. I want them walking in front of where the problems are,” O’Connor said. “You’ll see a lot more arrests and a lot more action in the next two weeks.”
Zone 5 police Cmdr. Linda Barone — whose district includes the Penn Avenue corridor through Garfield and Bloomfield — said her officers already do much of the work O’Connor wants.
Zappala said the five police detectives O’Connor has assigned to attack violent crime have been identifying drug dealers in Friendship, Garfield and other east city neighborhoods. Even so, help from neighborhood groups, such as the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, is needed, he said.
“We can’t do that alone,” Zappala said. “We can’t really make a meaningful impact on these communities if we just take one or two (drug dealers) out.”
Aggie Brose, deputy director of the nonprofit corporation, said O’Connor’s visit proves his commitment to clean up city streets.
O’Connor promised to return to Garfield in a month to see if police and neighborhood efforts have worked.
Penn Aiken owner George Fisher said the closing of the Horoscope already has helped.
“What you’re doing is going to help the whole community,” Fisher told the mayor.