Mon Valley Police Regionalization Hits Wall After 3 Boroughs Drop Out

The plan hit a major roadblock after Whittaker, Braddock and North Braddock dropped out. KDKA's Andy Sheehan has more.

Video Transcript

- They're overstretched, understaffed, and underpaid. Police officers who patrol the towns of the mine Valley are struggling. And now a plan to pull resources and improve service is in jeopardy.

KDKA investigator, Andy Sheehan tells us what's at stake.

- Since most of the Mills closed down decades ago. Employment is down and crime is up. These towns have cobbled together part time police departments struggling to keep up.

Kyle Lewis owns and runs this small convenience store in Rankin. And worries about violent crime. Just last year he says, someone shot his grandson in nearby Hawkins village.

- he was shot in the arm. So his arm will never be the same. He won't have full use of it anymore. 20 years old. It's a shame.

- Well, shootings homicides and other major crimes are on the rise throughout the mond Valley. Rankin and the surrounding Boroughs are patrolled by a handful of part time police officers. Some making as little as $11 an hour.

In rank in state police who have other duties handled the overnight shifts. And the town concedes response times can be lengthy. But Lewis thinks there's a solution.

- And I think if we were able to pull our resources together. Have these police departments merge. They're all small little towns. They're all struggling to survive. They don't have the resources to survive on their own.

- Which share resources is 100% going to be better.

- In a State Department of Community and elements study, Rankin, Whittaker, Braddock, North Braddock in East Pittsburgh could form a regional police force. Pull resources hire decently paid fully trained officers. And provide better service to the residents and businesses.

Renkin police chief, Ryan Wooten is all in.

- What do we have now. We have part time police officers that got work two or three jobs to keep their lights on and put food on the table. So it's going to be a win-win for everybody.

- But the plan has hit a major roadblock with three of the communities dropping out. Whittaker, Braddock, and North Braddock.

- I'm not against it. It's just that you have to do better than that.

- Braddock police chief guy, Collins. Says under the plan his officers would need to resign and reapply. Resulting in some losing their jobs. Rather than improve coverage Collins says, there would be fewer cops patrolling a wider geographic area.

- If you think we're short now, that's really going to be more productive in my sight of 26 years that I've been in law enforcement.

- East Pittsburgh no longer has a police department it disbanded. After a part time officer Michael rossfeld shot and killed a fleeing Antwon Rose jr. Three years ago. It now relies entirely on state police for protection.

And while grateful for the help, borough manager Seth abran says the state troopers are not a replacement.

- They're not our neighborhood police. They don't know our residents. They don't they it's difficult to have that proactive relationship and proactive policing that you want. As opposed to a that response and you're only there when something bad happens.

- The hope of East Pittsburgh and Rankin is to revive these talks. And get regionalization back on the table with Braddock in North Braddock. Because right now, there's a shortage of other solutions.

Reporting in Braddock, Andy Sheehan. KDKA news.