Pittsburgh Police Say They Won’t Respond To Calls That Aren’t Ongoing Emergences Anymore  

Source: Pittsburgh Bureau of Police

Pittsburgh is home to 310,000 people and is the second largest city in Pennsylvania. To ensure the safety and wellbeing of their residents the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police employs over 900; however, for the first time in a very long time they are experiencing serious staffing issues.

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has announced that they will no longer respond to early morning calls that are not ongoing emergencies, and as you can imagine, not everyone is comfortable with this idea. 

Announcement From The Pittsburgh Bureau Of Police 

Police Chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, Larry Scirotto, made an announcement during a press conference last week that the organization will be making a significant change to its current policies, effective immediately.

Source: WTAE

The Chief explained, moving forward, all phone calls that come into the station between 3:00 AM and 7:00 AM that do not involve ongoing emergencies will not be answered by an officer, instead they will be sent to a telephone reporting unit. Also known as an answering machine.  

What Is Considered An Emergency 

Per the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, incidents that have already occurred cannot be stopped immediately with officer intervention will be considered a non-emergency.

Source: Pinterest

This means that if someone has already stolen your car, a thief has come and gone from your home etc. This means that if a car has already been stolen, a burglar has come and gone, etcThe police will not respond to the scene until the following day. 

The Two-Step Alarm Verification System

In order to sift through what phone calls are actual emergencies, the new system will require callers to confirm if the situation they are calling about is happening at the moment or not. 

Source: Shutterstock/Ground Picture

If it is a currently occurring emergency their call will be directed to an on-duty officer, if not it will go to a voicemail. Then the following day at 7:00 AM, the officer scheduled to work the desk will listen to the voicemails and dispatch officers accordingly.

Adjustments Will Be Made To Police Response Alarm Systems 

Chief Scriotto also explained that their records show that one of the most frustrating misuse of officers takes place because of home security alarms. 

Source: Pinterest

Now for an officer to respond to an alarm they now “require there to be a second verification, a second authentication factor, such as it’s not just the front door, if there’s interior motion, there’s video, there’s audio, there’s glass break,” Scirotto said.

Running Low On Manpower

President of the union that represents Pittsburgh police Bob Swartzwelder explained, “They’re running out of manpower very, very quickly, and they’re getting very taxed.” 

Source: Shutterstock/Motortion Film

This doesn’t necessarily mean that Swartzwelder fully agrees with Scriotto’s plan. He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I think the strategy at this point is a hope and a prayer that they can base everyone on data. It may pan out to be correct. It may be disastrous.” 

Understanding Shifts Within The Pittsburgh Bureau Of Police

Scirotto emphasizes that the decision wasn’t made lightly, however they truly believe this is the only avenue to take to ensure the organization functions at the highest possible capacity.

Source: Pinterest

Historically, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has anywhere between 850 to 990 officers on staff, but as of March 2024, there are only about 740. 

A Shift In Policing

This alteration to the way police work in the AM hours was implemented just one year after the mayor said they would put more police in downtown Pittsburgh, to address the rise in crime. 

Source: Unsplash/Jocelyn Allen

To battle the growing crime downtown, a public safety center was opened in the  neighborhood. 

Crime Downtown Remains A Concern

While many residents welcomed the increased police presence, this policy change has many concerned. 

Source: Unsplash/Kenny Eliason

A report from Allegheny Institute for Public Policy was published last year stating that rising crime in downtown Pittsburgh remained “perhaps the most pressing matter before the city and county.” 

Public Safety Center 

Only one day after the public safety center downtown was opened, the police announced the change to the 911 policy. 

Source: Unsplash/Jonathan Rivera

The center itself has gone through many changes, such as the center only has 16 officers on duty in the facility from 8 a.m. to midnight every single day, a step back from the 24/7 on-duty team that some people thought they were getting. 

Less Confident 

Steve Zappala, the District Attorney, has even less faith in the chief’s new plan; he told WTAE, “To tell people that you’re not going to be protected at certain hours of the day, that didn’t make any sense to me when I heard it. I don’t know what the rationale for that was, and I think that’s something the chief has to explain.” 

Source: AP photo/Keith Srakocic

He continued, “Is there any other large city in the country that’s a part-time police department? I mean, does that make any sense to any of you guys? It doesn’t to me.” 

What Pittsburgh Residents Are Saying

The residents of Pittsburgh have conflicting viewpoints on the matter, some are in opposition and feel that it won’t help those who live in the city at all. 

Source: Unsplash/Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

Rich Cupka, the owner of Cupka Café 2, is not happy with what the police have decided to do. Cupka told CBS News, “The whole city of Pittsburgh is at risk.” 

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey Provisionally Endorsed The Change 

Ed Gainey, the mayor, gave a supportive but less-than-enthusiastic statement regarding Chief Scirotto’s changes to the force.


Gainey said, “The chief has made clear that there was a cutback, but there was going to be patrolmen there, and there would be patrol people ready to go, so again, that’s why I’m saying you’ve always got to talk to the person that’s implementing the new rules. That’s the chief or the public safety director.”

Natives To Pittsburgh 

Some Pittsburgh natives have harbored long standing feelings of being neglected by the law.  h WPXI hit the streets to hear how certain communities felt about all these new policy changes, only to find out that many of them weren’t shocked by the changes. 

Source: Unsplash/Forsaken Films

One local told them that they’d been told by police before that they could not help, even though someone was trying to break into their car one night. 

Accepting The New Policy 

Some Pittsburgh residents have gotten used to the idea of this new policy, specifically because they believe this will aid in officers’ work-life balance. 

Source: Freepik

Frank Monaco said, “We have to see how it’s going to work out, but I know it’s been tried in other places, and it seems successful, so we’re just going to have to see how it goes.”

Will Crime Rise In Pittsburg Due To These Changes? 

DA Zappala and numerous other Pittsburg community members have concerns that the police chief’s announcement doesn’t just affect those residents in need from 3:00 AM to 7:00 AM but also that it could actually be dangerous. 

Source: Unsplash/Peter Scherbatykh

Even Though it is far too early to see what the long term effects will be from this policy change, many wonder if the crime rate will increase.  

Other Police Departments Might Follow 

The debate is ongoing as to if Chief Scriotto’s plan is genius or harmful, it is likely there will be data obtained to prove whether or not this helped or hurt the people of Pittsburgh

Source: Wikimedia Commons

If it isn’t effective, or if it increases crime, the policy will of course be discontinued. 

Police Will Still be Available 

The Chief and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police want people to know that just because someone isn’t at the desk doesn’t mean police aren’t available. There will still be officers on patrol. 

Source: Facebook/Pittsburgh Police

Scirotto said that now, between 3:00 AM and 7:00 AM, there will be between 25 and 30 officers in the city. He went on to say, “Average night, we’d have seven officers out on the road in each zone, so [we had] like 42 officers, generally. We cut 12. People think I cut 112.”

Scirotto Doesn’t Agree With Critics

Recently, Scirotto explicitly denied reports that implied less than a dozen officers were working throughout the entire city overnight.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

He responded with an explanation as to why the restructuring had to be done, “We are doing our job to keep the city safe, the residents within it and our officers,” Scirotto said,  “To do that, you have to make informed decisions.”  

Fresh Team Of Officers 

Pittsburgh Police are also putting together a fresh team of officers. This new team will aid police officer applicants through their entire process. 

Source: Unsplash/Michael Förtsch

This team will also help them understand all that they have to do when applying for this position, such as undergoing background checks and psychological evaluations.   

Additional Changes To Pittsburgh Police

Most people have had their eyes fixed on how the police in Pittsburgh won’t be responding to non-emergencies in the morning. However, this isn’t the only change coming to the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

Source: Unsplash/AJ Colores

The bureau is going through a restructuring that will create new policies to the force. Including a four-day work week for officers, to reduce burnout. 

Pittsburgh Is In Need Of More Police  

The bureau has been transparent about how they need to hire more officers. A public information officer for the Department of Public Safety, Cara Cruz explained, the application process may be easier on people with this team helping them out. 

Source: Unsplash/Max Fleischmann

Cruz went on to say, “These are the steps applicants have to go through just to GET to the academy, this is where the bureau loses a significant amount of the applicants before they even sit in the Academy at day one. This is where the new recruitment team will be placing much of its focus.”  

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Athena Hallet

Written by Athena Hallet

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