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Safer homes: The city housing authority acts for its residents

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People who live in public housing may have less money than their middle-class neighbors, but their expectations of safety in their communities aren't diminished. They want -- and deserve -- an environment free of drug-related violence and crime.

Last Thursday the board of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority cracked down on criminal activity in its complexes by tightening the rules for access and barring applicants charged with drug-related or violent offenses until their cases are resolved. The authority also has a project in the works, the "Most Unwanted List," to display the photos of those who are not welcome on the premises because of past criminal activity.

Another innovation is a requirement that all residents show ID because too many lend their personal electronic keys to non-residents who come and go unimpeded. This eliminates one of the biggest security risks by efficiently establishing who has a right to be there and who doesn't.

A new system that also helps residents to report crimes on the premises anonymously should encourage those who are reluctant to share information about the criminals oppressing them.

The authority will keep rejecting applicants with recent criminal convictions. For too long, those with no interest in obeying the law have turned their time in public housing into an opportunity for criminal activity.

Lifetime bans will remain in place for meth lab operators and certain sex offenders. Still, the authority isn't inflexible. Once someone accused of a crime is found not guilty, the person's application for public housing will be considered.

Most residents of public housing want to live safe, hassle-free lives. The noise and crime that a minority of people bring doesn't have to be tolerated. Credit goes to the Pittsburgh Housing Authority board for taking the health and safety of its residents seriously.

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