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Craig Street Neighbors Beg for Relief from 'Terrorism'

By Jason Togyer
The Tube City Almanac
November 03, 2016
Posted in: McKeesport and Region News

Neighbors from the Craig Street area --- some afraid of being identified for fear of retaliation --- came to McKeesport City Council Wednesday night to beg for relief from what one called "domestic terrorism."

They say that gun play centered around one house in the 1400 block has become a common occurrence, both at night and in broad daylight, including this past Sunday afternoon.

"We're being held hostage in our own houses," said one neighbor, "B." (Editor's note: Tube City Almanac is voluntarily withholding the names of the people who spoke to protect them and their families.) "It's like domestic terrorism --- it's bad. There are bullet holes everywhere. If you guys can't do something about this, I've got to move."

The shootings were the topic of a news story Tuesday on Pittsburgh's WPXI-TV (11).

Both neighbors and McKeesport police say the shootings are targeting one particular house on the block, where a tenant's boyfriend is suspected of criminal activity. Police Chief Bryan Washowich said he was not at liberty to identify the house, or the suspected activity.

"It's been sporadic for the past six months," Washowich said last night. "We thought we had a grip on it, but it heated up again recently and it's actually getting worse."

City and Allegheny County police are engaged in saturation patrols of the neighborhood in an attempt to prevent shootings and apprehend suspected shooters, he said.

"B." said the visible police presence has been re-assuring, but the shootings continue.

"Bullets are just whizzing through my lattices and cutting through the neighbor's yard," "B." said. "I'm up there on my roof, looking for rounds in my gutters. We're tired. With every car that goes by, I have to wonder, 'Is this the car that's going to be shooting?'"

"These boys are standing right in front of my house, shooting up and down the street," said another resident, "A." "I have a baby granddaughter staying at home now, and she's been startled out of her sleep. My 10-year-old godson is scared to death."

"A." said she's called the police to report suspicious activity, but in one case, an Allegheny County 9-1-1 dispatcher put her address out over the police radio. If the shooters have a police scanner, "A." said, they will know she's the one who called the cops.

"It's not getting better --- it's getting worse," "B." said. "If you can't do something, we'll sell the house and we'll go."

Mayor Mike Cherepko said the tenant whose boyfriend is being targeted is the daughter of the homeowner, who no longer lives in the neighborhood. The city is using every legal means to evict the daughter and her boyfriend, Cherepko said.

"We have four or five different strategies we're trying," he said, adding that the homeowner is aware of the violence and is also trying to get her daughter to move.

"At this point, the homeowner has been very, very cooperative with the police," Cherepko said. "But we're at the point where we've got to get them out of there."

Both Cherepko and McKeesport police have tried to talk to the tenant, Cherepko said, "but she's not living in reality.

"I flat-out told them, you're going to get a visit from the coroner at some point," said Cherepko, who said he is meeting with residents of the neighborhood. "It's ridiculous that we can have one house basically holding everyone else hostage from living a peaceful life."

In the meantime, he said, the suppression patrols will continue, which he noted "means putting our officers in harm's way." Cherepko said the extra police presence does not mean that officers are being diverted from other parts of the city, but that police are pulling extra shifts and working overtime.

The city is determined to get the tenant out of the house, Cherepko said. "We're putting on the full-court press," he said. "We're going to get them out. It's not a matter of if --- it's a matter of when."

Originally published November 03, 2016.

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