Tuesday, April 13, 2010
By Joe Smydo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb said he can’t do a performance audit of the city’s anti-gang violence initiative because there’s no performance so far to audit.

Councilman Bruce Kraus called last Tuesday for an audit, expressing frustration that the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime remains in the planning stages more than 18 months after Mayor Luke Ravenstahl proposed it.
The program received an allocation of $200,000 last year, but only about $20,000 has been spent so far, according to records from the controller’s office.

Councilman Ricky Burgess, a key backer of the initiative, has proposed allocating another $200,000, but his colleagues have questioned the idea of pumping more money into a program that’s not only been slow to get off the ground but hasn’t yet tapped the bulk of its original allocation.

A key contract, with David Kennedy of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control and a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, remains unsigned; that’s one reason for the low level of spending to date, PIRC coordinator Jay Gilmer said Monday.
Mr. Ravenstahl proposed PIRC in September 2008. The program, based on Boston’s “Operation Ceasefire” that Dr. Kennedy led in the 1990s, is supposed to work this way:

Police will call gang members to meetings and tell them homicides won’t be tolerated. Gang members who want to turn their lives around will be offered an array of social services. If gang-related homicides continue, police will crack down on all members of the involved groups.

Council members had expected the program to be operational long before now.

Besides the audit, Mr. Kraus also had sought information on program expenditures, and Mr. Lamb supplied that information.
To date, the city has inked only one PIRC-related contract — a two-year, $140,000 agreement with the University of Pittsburgh. Only $20,615 of the $140,000 has been spent so far, the controller’s office said.

The contract calls for Pitt to analyze city homicides from 2006-08, study the relationships between “street-level groups involved in gun violence,” document PIRC’s design and implementation process and evaluate program performance in the future.

“The funds spent to date have been to Pitt for their evaluation of the launch of this initiative and for their coordination of the data collection phase of the project. They’re watching to see if we launch it according to the (Boston) model, so it can be evaluated. … Funds are disbursed as work is done,” Mr. Gilmer said by e-mail.

Mr. Gilmer said Pitt brought in University of Cincinnati researchers to assist with the work.

Mr. Gilmer said Dr. Kennedy has been working on the project even though his contract with the city hasn’t been finalized.

Mr. Gilmer said a funding issue has held up the contract. Though Dr. Kennedy needed $67,000 for the work, only $60,000 was allocated to him from PIRC’s start-up allocation of $200,000 last year. The other $140,000 was allocated for the Pitt contract. Council will vote today on allocating the $7,000 for Dr. Kennedy’s contract