Crime and Safety

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Limited crime and maximum safety are fundamental to the growth and survival of any neighborhood or city. In the neighborhood of Homewood-Brushton, the media has historically portrayed the area as a hostile and crime-ridden environment. The purpose of our research and analysis is to determine which threats are most pervasive to the neighborhood, and we will offer means of combating the crimes that arise frequently within the Homewood-Brushton area.

Crime Prevalence

  • Crime and Safety

Crime Rates

Our group analyzed the data provided by the Southwestern Pennsylvania Community Profiles to determine the types of crimes that are most prevalent within the neighborhood. Unsurprisingly, Part II crimes have been the highest over the years, as this type of crime encompasses many non-violent crimes. The FBI defines Part II crimes as robbery, assaut, larceny, fraud, embezzlement, drug abuse, driving under the influence, drunkenness, and disobeying liquor laws.

WH total

The area of Homewood West, which encompasses streets such as Amity Way, N Murtland Street, and Gerritt Street, demonstrated the lowest count of crime incidences in the years of 2010-2013. The counts took into consideration all types of crime, such as violent crime, gun crime, part II crime, and property crime.

NH total

Homewood North yielded average counts of crime incidences. The area of Homewood North is comprised of N Homewood Avenue, Mt. Vernon Street, Frankstown Avenue, and Perchment Street.

SH Total

The highest counts of crime were observed in Homewood South. In 2013, 685 crimes occurred in Homewood South, which is over three times as much as in Homewood West.

GH Total

Overall, the total count of crimes in Homewood-Brushton has been strikingly high. As evidenced in the graph above, there is an upward trend of crime prevalence in the neighborhood over the past few years.

  • Drug Crime in the Neighborhood

In order to best determine the greatest threat to Homewood-Brushton in relation to crime, our group broke down and scrutinized the most prevalent type of crime, part II crime, into its many factors.


The graph above is a reflection of the data provided by the City of Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety. In Homewood North in 2014, drug violations were found to be the most prevalent type of part II crime. There were no known liquor law violations within the area.


Again, the data demonstrates that drug violations encompassed the highest count of part II crimes in Homewood South. Drunken driving and public intoxication counts were low in 2014, and liquor law violations were again very low.


Homewood West, which has previously shown to have the lowest level of crime rates, again demonstrated low levels of part II crime incidence. However, drug violations were proven to be the highest type of crime present within the area.


Since the largest percentage of crime in Homewood stems from drug related offenses, it remains very important to analyze how these offenses are being handled. Often times, they are being treated as criminal issues rather than medical ones. This leads to an increasing number of incarcerations for these crimes. Then upon returning to society after the end of their sentence, there is a large rate of recidivism and repeat offenses because the original problem at hand was never treated. This is a problem not only in Homewood, but all over the country.

The United States of America, the “free” country, is jailing at incredible rates that are disproportionate to the actual demographics of the population. There proves to be an increasing number of individuals serving time for nonviolent offenses. Take a look at where the US stands in relation to other countries on mass incarceration.


Based off the break down of crimes being committed in Homewood as well as the demographics of the area, we can assume that the majority of incarcerations are from nonviolent offenses and are contributing to the misrepresentation of Blacks in prison.

Prison was intended for  major purposes:  retribution, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation.

  1. Retribution- a from of punishment and deprivation from freedom as a means to pay debt to society for their crime
  2. Incapacitation- removal from society so they can no longer cause harm to innocent people
  3. Deterrence- prevention from future crime
  4. Rehabilitation- activities designed to change criminals into law abiding citizens

Only one of the main goals of prison is being accomplished. Deterrence and Rehabilitation are not occurring as we can see by the recidivism rates, and incapacitation is not being carried out correctly if those being removed from society never were a threat to society in the first place. The only things prisons are good at are punishing and taking away freedom.

The prison abolition movement attempts to eliminate prisons and the prison system. It views prisons as an ineffective way of decreasing crime and reforming criminals. They also agree that the current criminal justice system is racist, sexist, and classist. One of the many arguments made for prison abolition is that the majority of people accused of crime cannot afford to pay a lawyer.  This movement proposes a variety of alternatives to prisons as well as provide social, economic, and safety benefits. You can find more information about these movements here in addition to many resources on how to get there:

Prison Abolition Movement

In addition to this, the amount of money going into funding, maintaining, and constructing prisons that are largely overpopulated is growing more than 100% faster than money going into education. If the prisons did not dominate so much money then there would be more money available to fund things like education. There could potentially be money available to revitalize communities like Homewood-Bruston.

Along with decriminalizing drug offenses, it is also important to decriminalize the ways in which we treat drug addiction and drug abuse. It remains easy to use a criminal justice template in order to solve these issues; however, this does more damage than it does good. Victor Rios describes a phenomena where the combination of these criminalizing influences cause conformation to being criminal as well as lowers self-esteem which can also lead to more crime.

Drug Information

The most effective way to combat high rates of drug abuse is through education. It’s important for people to understand what they are putting into their bodies and how it is affecting themselves and those around them. We chose to focus on alcohol, marijuana, and heroin due to their prevalence of offenses in Homewood crime records. Below is quick information about each substance, how it affects the body, fines associated with their possession, and resources for those struggling with substance abuse.

  • Alcoholalcohol header

  • Chemical composition
    • Depressant (slows messages traveling between the brain and body)
    • Ethyl alcohol molecule:
      • Very small
      • Dissolves easily in water
      • Absorbed easily in GI tract
      • Quick onset of action, but short duration
      • Low fat solubility: females have higher BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) than males

alcohol 2

  • Short term effects
    • Dilated blood vessels lead to heat loss, despite a feeling of warmness
    • Increased urination
    • Increases pepsin and stomach acid (feel hungry)
    • Feelings of confidence, assertiveness, aggressiveness, increased social interaction, reduced tension
    • Loss of memory (“blacking out”)
    • Uncoordinated actions
    • Blurred vision
    • Effects vary for each person
      • May be felt in minutes
      • Effects sped up by carbonation
      • Effects slowed by a full stomach
      • 90% metabolized by liver, 5% by lungs
      • Body size, weight, health, other drugs taken, tolerance, and strength of drink are factors that change the way alcohol affects people individually
  • Long term effects
    • Interferes with functioning of liver
      • Lower rate of processing fats and forming glucose
      • May lead to cirrhosis (extreme hardening and scaring of the liver)
    • Extensive exposure: fat accumulation causes cell death and fibrosis
    • Brain damage
    • Risk for heart attack increases
    • Risk for cancer increases
    • Physical dependence may build up after months or years
    • Depression
    • Erectile dysfunction for males
    • Suppressed immune system

alcohol 3

  • Risky combinations
    • With marijuana: increased paranoia, anxiety, nausea, vomiting
    • With energy drinks, speed, or MDMA: the body is put under more stress and disorientation, more likely to engage in risky behavior, risk of overdose increase
    • With benzos: decreased heart rate, overdose much more likely
  • Legality
    • Legal drinking age in the US: 21 years old
    • Legal intoxication: BAC of 0.08-01%
      • Intoxication happens when at least one drink for every 40 lbs. is ingested every hour
      • 1 drink = 1.5oz liquor, 5oz wine, 12 oz beeralcohol 1
  • Addiction
    • Lethal dose: 0.5% BAC
      • Vomiting usually occurs around 0.12% BAC, reducing the chance of lethal dose
      • Consuming a large amount of high proof liquor at once may lead to a lethal dose
    • Physical dependence may build up after months or years
    • Withdrawal can be lethal (4 stages)
      • 1: tremors, anxiety, rapid heart rate, hypertension, sweating, loss of appetite, insomnia
      • 2: hallucinations
      • 3: delusions, disorientation, delirium, amnesia
      • 4: seizures
    • Withdrawal symptoms are worst for the first 2-4 days
  • How to Sober Up
    • Your body can eliminate one drink per hour; this is the only way to eliminate alcohol from your system
    • Myths: coffee, cold showers, exercise, vomiting
    • If you have been drinking, do not drive!!
  • Treatments
    • Alcoholics Anonymous: organization of alcoholics, uses the 12 Step Program to fight alcoholism on a daily basis
    • Behavioral Therapy: Attempt to stop alcohol consumption by reinforcing behavior to combat it
  • Marijuanamedical-cannabis

  • Chemical composition
    • Has a unique classification; many call it a depressant, but it can also act as a narcotic or have mild hallucinogenic effects
    • THC from the marijuana plant is responsible for the high
      • Plant: 2-5% THC
      • Hashish: 7-14% THC
      • Hash oil: 15-60% THC
  • How ingested
    • Smoked or ingested orally as edibles
    • Extremely lipid soluble: rapidly absorbed in bloodstream and distributed to brain
    • Effects are felt quickly, peak around 10-30 minutes
    • 1 week after smoking: 25-30% of THC and other metabolites in marijuana remain in blood
    • A large dose may take 2-3 weeks to be eliminated from the body

weed 1

  • Short term effects
    • Depends on how much is ingested
    • 2mg smoked/5mg oral: mild euphoria
    • 7mg smoked/17mg oral: changes in time sense
    • 15mg smoked/25mg oral: perceptual distortions, delusions, hallucinations
    • Physical effects:
      • Red/squinty eyes
      • Slight increase in heart rate
      • Slight increase in blood pressure (low dose)
      • Slight decrease in blood pressure (high dose)
      • Blurred vision/headache
      • Dry mouth
    • Psychological effects:
      • Frequent mood swings
      • Short term memory impaired
      • Time appears to pass slowly
      • Impairment of speaking, problem solving, forming concepts
      • Increased awareness of surroundings and perception
      • Euphoria, creativity
      • Anxiety, paranoia
      • Relaxation
      • Slowed reflexes
  • Long term effects
    • Memory loss
    • Learning difficulties
    • Mood swings
    • Suppressed immune system (more frequent colds/flu)
    • Upper respiratory problems
    • Reduced sex drive
    • Psychological dependence
    • Problems with finances, work, and socializing
    • Rising tolerance
    • Lower fertility rates
    • Gateway hypothesis: using marijuana may lead to using riskier drugs due to curiosity and connections with other marijuana users
    • Amotivational syndrome: generalized apathy and indifference to long term goals and motivation
  •  Legality
    • 1970: Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act make marijuana a schedule I drug
    • Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states, recreational marijuana legal in 4
    • Legal medical treatments: cancer, AIDS, glaucoma patients (and others up to doctors’ discretion)
    • Bill passed in Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives on March 16th 2016 for medical marijuana; could be enacted into law by the end of the year
    • Currently in Pennsylvania:
      • Possession of marijuana considered a misdemeanor or felony
      • Depends on amount and intention to sell
      • Less than 30 grams: up to 30 days in jail, $500 fine
      • More than 30 grams: up to 360 days in jail, $5,000 fine
      • Selling 1,000 pounds or less: up to 5 years in prison, $10,000 fine
      • Selling greater amounts: up to 15 years in prison, $100,000 fine
      • Selling to someone under 21: doubles penalties
      • Selling within 1,000 feet of a school or 250 feet from a playground: 2-4 year prison sentence
      • Selling paraphernalia: up to 1 year in jail, $5,000 fine
      • DUI :
        • First offense: 72 hours-6 months in jail, $1,000-5,000 fine, lose license for 18 months, attend traffic school
        • Second offense: 90+ days in jail, $1,500+ fine
        • Third offense: 1+ year in jail, $2,500 fine, lose license for 18 months

weed 2

  • Addiction
    • Psychological addiction possible
    • Usually only with very high, daily doses
    • Withdrawal symptoms last a week:
      • Anxiety
      • Irritability/aggression
      • Intense cravings for marijuana
      • Loss of appetite/upset stomach
      • Sweating, chills, tremors
      • Restless sleep and intense dreams (may surpass a week)
  • Local help centers
  • Heroin

    heroin 3

  • Chemical composition:
    • Depressant
    • Opiate/narcotic
    • 3 times more potent than morphine
    • Powerful euphoric and painkilling effects
    • Addiction and tolerance builds very quickly
  • How ingested
    • Different forms: fine white powder, off-white granules, light brown “rock”, black tar
    • Injected into veins, snorted, smoked

heroin 2

  • Short term effects
    • Depends on the person:
      • Size, weight, and health
      • Tolerance
      • Other drugs used
      • Amount taken
      • Strength of drug (each batch varies)
    • Effects last 3-5 hours:
      • Intense pleasure/pain relief
      • Relaxation, drowsiness, clumsiness
      • Confusion
      • Slurred speech
      • Slow heart rate and breathing
      • Dry mouth
      • Tiny pupils
      • Reduced appetite/vomiting
      • Decreased sex drive
    • Large amount/strong batch:
      • Concentration problems
      • Sleepiness
      • Trouble urinating
      • Itchiness
      • Irregular heartbeat
      • Cold, clammy skin
      • Slow breathing, blue lips and fingertips
      • death
  • Long term effects
    • Irritability and depression may be felt days after consumption
    • Regular use leads to:
      • Intense sadness
      • Irregular periods/fertility issues
      • Constipation
      • Damaged heart, lungs, liver, brain, veins, skin
      • Heart and lung infections
      • Dependence and rising tolerance
      • Problems with finances, work, and socializing
    • Sharing needles: prone to tetanus, Hepatitis B and C, HIV/AIDS
  • Cross combinations
    • Heroin + speed/ecstasy: extreme strain on heart and kidneys, increased risk of overdose
    • Heroin + alcohol/cannabis/benzos: slowed breathing may lead to death
    • Speedballs: heroin and cocaine
      • Injecting or snorting both drugs at once
      • Mixing of a depressant and stimulant is very dangerous
      • Creates an intense high with immediate cravings for more
      • Rush of intensity from cocaine mixed with sedative effects of heroin
      • User cannot tell if they’re approaching lethal levels of either drug
      • Organs are severely harmed when the extreme oppositional effects of the two drugs are occurring at the same time (i.e. cocaine increases heart rate while heroin lowers it)
      • Withdrawal symptoms of speedballs:
        • Restlessness
        • Vomiting
        • Shaking
        • Abdominal pain
        • Insomnia
        • Muscle aches/cramps
        • Paranoia
        • Bone pain
  •  Legality
    • Schedule I drug with no legal medical uses
    • Possession of 1 gram or less: 1 year in jail for first offense, longer for subsequent offenses
    • Dealing heroin: up to 15 years in prison
  •  Addiction
    • Withdrawal symptoms start within 6-24 hours of last dose and can last a week. The first three days are typically the worst
      • Intense cravings for heroin
      • Restlessness and irritability
      • Depression
      • Vomiting and diarrhea
      • Restless sleep
      • Stomach and leg cramps
      • Lack of appetite
      • Goose bumps
      • Runny nose
      • Fast heart beat
    • Sudden withdrawal from a heavy user may cause death
  •  Overdose
    • Signs:
      • Slow/shallow breathing
      • Hypotension
      • Muscle spasms
      • Convulsions
      • Coma
    • Heroin across the country and in Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh has been found to be laced with fentanyl, a painkiller 80 times more powerful than morphine
    • The user cannot detect the strength of heroin or whether it is laced, a risky gamble with death
    • Naloxone/Narcan reverses the effects of overdose
      • Nasal spray that counters opioid effects
      • Can be administered by friend, family member, medical professional, or police
      • $65-70 for a double dose kit, may be covered under health insurance, prescription needed
      • Prevention Point Pittsburgh offers naloxone for free and without prescription if you attend opioid training courses there
      • Map of pharmacies that provide naloxone

heroin 1

Local help centers

  • Despite the obvious need for rehabilitation and prevention centers in and around Homewood Brushton, a study of “The Accessibility and Adequacy of Allegheny County’s Medicaid Managed Care Behavioral Health Services” (Athar) reveals that there is only ONE community service program within Homewood’s Census Tract (Homewood South): COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT ASSOCIATION located at 7120 Kelly St, Pittsburgh PA
    • However, despite all the wonderful youth, family, and group programs that this association offers, it is considered adequate only for outpatient service, residential service, diagnostic service, treatment service, social service, and drug/alcohol services
    • This association-and Homewood Brushton as a whole-are missing out on the benefits of inpatient rehabilitation care, which is considered by many to be the most effective form of drug and alcohol rehab

Nearby Help Centers

  • Prevention Point Pittsburgh
    • Legal needle exchange
    • Free and confidential HIV/Hepatitis C testing
    • Education services and training, especially on overdose and risk-reduction
    • Drug treatment services
    • Safe and non-judgmental
    • Locations in Oakland, Hill District, Perry Hilltop
  • Local heroin detox centers – nearest location to Homewood: Mercy Behavioral Health Renaissance Ce | (412) 261-5071 | 908-910 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Power Recovery: addiction help for women – located right outside of Homewood’s census tracts, but still nearby at:  7501 Penn Avenue, Suite 8  |  Pittsburgh, PA 15208

Potential Solutions

  • One of our main solutions to the decriminalization of drugs in Homewood is educating the local community, which we hope this website will help by providing information on the commonly abused substances (the effects, the symptoms, legal status, and prevention)
  • In addition, we wanted to brainstorm some ideas that could help solve the community’s substance abuse problem (beyond the crime aspect). To do this, we decided to look at where the most DUIs, overdoses, and drug arrests were taking place. By reviewing samples from Western Pennsylvania’s Regional Data Center police blotter from 2015-2016, we found the following areas to often be potential problem areas:
    • the 1500 block of North Lang Avenueurban soc N lang ave
    • the 700 block of North Homewood Avenueurban soc n homewood ave
    • the 7600 block of Bennett StreetUrban Soc Bennett St
  • Our suggestion for improving the actual issue of substance abuse in Homewood Brushton, then, would be to try and build an inpatient treatment center WITHIN the census tracts of Homewood, as well as potentially trying to bring other help centers (halfway houses, three-quarter houses, outpatient, etc.) to the community.
  • Building an inpatient rehabilitation center within the community would be extremely beneficial because unlike other treatment services, inpatient centers provide 24 hours/day care, a detox facility (which helps with withdrawal), a constant support group in a safe environment, and the opportunity to meet with a counselor or therapist every day. You can read more about the benefits of inpatient rehabilitation here: Benefits of Inpatient Rehab
  • In terms of effectiveness, inpatient rehab centers typically tend to be more successful for long-term recovery. However, it is ultimately up to the patient and their family to decide which treatment method may be best for them personally. Here you can find a brief breakup of the different main types of treatment possibilities:
    • Detoxification: “Often considered the first stage of treatment. Detoxification, the process by which the body clears itself of drugs, is designed to manage the acute and potentially dangerous physiological effects of stopping drug use…Detoxification alone does not address the psychological, social, and behavioral problems associated with addiction and therefore does not typically produce lasting behavioral changes necessary for recovery. Detoxification should thus be followed by a formal assessment and referral to drug addiction treatment.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
    • Long-Term Residential Treatment or Long-Term Inpatient Treatment: “Long-term residential treatment provides care 24 hours a day, generally in non-hospital settings. This treatment is residential, meaning that the patient actively lives in the recovery center. The best-known residential treatment model is the therapeutic community (TC), with planned lengths of stay of between 6 and 12 months. TCs focus on the resocialization of the individual and use the program’s entire community—including other residents, staff, and the social context—as active components of treatment…designed to help residents examine damaging beliefs, self-concepts, and destructive patterns of behavior and adopt new, more harmonious and constructive ways to interact with others.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
    • Short-Term Residential Treatment or Short-Term Inpatient Treatment: “Short-term residential programs provide intensive but relatively brief treatment based on a modified 12-step approach. The original residential treatment model consisted of a 3- to 6-week hospital-based inpatient treatment phase followed by extended outpatient therapy and participation in a self-help group, such as AA.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
      • This is what we suggest Homewood should try to establish.
    • Outpatient Treatment Programs: “Outpatient treatment varies in the types and intensity of services offered. Such treatment costs less than residential or inpatient treatment and often is more suitable for people with jobs or extensive social supports. It should be noted, however, that low-intensity programs may offer little more than drug education.” (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
    • Sober Living Homes (Half-way Houses, Three Quarters House): “Sober living homes are group homes for addicts. These types of homes are different from rehab centers; rehab centers usually offer a more intensive recovery experience and give residents less freedom. People who live in sober living facilities can usually come and go as they please as long as they follow certain rules. For example, sober living houses may require residents to be home by a certain time or to go to work during the day. Residents are also usually subject to random drug tests to prove that they are sober. People who live in these types of facilities are expected to be responsible for themselves.” (“Sober Living Homes and Housing Options”)
    • In addition, building new treatment facilities can also help with issues such as unemployment and homelessness.

Potential Places to Build Treatment Facilities:

  • After finding some streets where DUIs, drug overdoses, and drug arrests are commonly taking place in Homewood, we decided to use Google maps to find empty spaces nearby that are just piling up with trash  that could instead be used to build new treatment centers for the community of Homewood:
  • Here is what some of these empty lots currently look like:
  • As you can see, these empty lots are not only a waste of space, but they are also littered with some of the paraphernalia of substance abuse, which may serve as a trigger for a recovering person walking down the street or spark the curiosity and normalcy of substance use among the children who walk past these lots every day
  • Here are some of the empty spaces near the “problem streets” that we thought it might be beneficial to build a new treatment center:
    • Four empty spaces all near the 1500 block of North Lang Avenue urban soc n lang ave solutions
    • Again, four empty (and one particularly large) spaces near the 700 block of North Homewood Avenueurban soc n homewood ave solutions 2
    • Two empty lots near the 7600 Block of Bennett Streeturban soc bennett st solution 3urban soc bennett st solution


Throughout our research, we have discovered that crime continues to steadily increase throughout almost all areas of Homewood; however despite popular belief, violent offenses are not the most prevalent in the area. Although commonly believed to be a very dangerous area, drug use is a much larger problem on the entire scheme of things. With the breakdown of offenses in Homewood, Part II crimes proved to greatly outnumber any other offense in the area. We have discussed the many signs and effects of drug use, abuse, and overdose that could serve as a supplement to anyone unsure about a family member or friend to potentially implement early intervention.

Homewood possesses many treatment facilities within the community; however, none of these facilities offer in patient care, which is often the best form of treatment when it comes to addiction. There are many available vacant lots in the community that new treatment centers could be constructed. This would also offer the opportunity for more employment for current residents in Homewood. In addition, we suggest an overall decriminalization of drugs including also decriminalizing the ways in which we treat drug use issues.

Homewood remains an area with great people and a community with enormous potential. There simply needs to be action taken in the right areas. If crime rates are lowered and safety is increased in Homewood-Brushton, the neighborhood would be setting itself up for maximum growth and revitalization.