Photo courtesy of the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is getting a new model for community policing on the North Side.

The Northview Heights Public Safety Center, located at 441 Mount Pleasant Road, opened on Dec. 4 with a ceremony attended by city and community leaders. The center is a unique collaboration between the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh and the Buhl Foundation.

“This center is a great model of many different partners coming together for a common good, one that delivers equity and quality of life for all,” Mayor Peduto said during the ceremony.

The center combines traditional police department functions with workspaces designed for community outreach and education services.

Speaking to NEXTpittsburgh, Caster Binion, executive director of the Housing Authority, said the variety of community services and the building’s central location in the neighborhood will enable the officers on duty to build relationships and lines of communication with the neighborhood in a positive setting.

“This is community policing at its finest,” said Binion.

Currently, the center is only up and running on the police side of the operation, with community services to roll out over the course of 2019. Diana Bucco, president of the Buhl Foundation, said that the main focus of the space will be on a rotating series of nonprofit and community groups with specific courses and programs to offer.

The center will be holding a public forum in the third week of January 2019 to get input from community members on what kind of services they would like to see at the center, but Bucco said the nonprofit group Auberle has already signed on to organize career services out of the center in early 2019.

“We’ll have a lot more to report in a month,” says Bucco.

The Buhl Foundation is a charitable organization that has been funding community-based projects in Pittsburgh since 1927. Over time, the Foundation also came to administer funds established by Henry C. Frick and Emilie McCreery.

In 2013, Buhl announced that they would focus more of their efforts on the 18 communities that make up the North Side of Pittsburgh, as it was the home of Henry Buhl Jr. and has been chronically underserved for decades.

The ONE Northside initiative, as named by the Buhl Foundation, also manages CoLab18, a 4,600-square-foot space inside tech hub Nova Place offering a variety of web and digital literacy courses to the community.

“Both Northside residents and Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Officers indicated a desire to build safer communities by working together,” said Bucco in a statement released during the opening. “I congratulate the Housing Authority, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police and the Mayor’s Office for coming together in response to this need and creating a space that is responsive to the community and a demonstration model that will truly have national implications.”

While the experiment is only a few days old, Binion expressed the utmost confidence in the center’s long-term prospects. “In six months, we’ll have a lot to brag about.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.