The authority instituted that stiff requirement, which applies to many but not all offenses even if there's been no conviction. That sound policy is necessary because its tenants deserve to live in safe communities, just like the rest of the city's population. Unfortunately, the authority's security staff and the residents lack the tools to effectively enforce the rules.
The tools they need are photographs.
A. Fulton Meachem Jr., the authority's executive director, told Post-Gazette reporter Rich Lord that his staff has been working with police and probation officials for some time in an effort to create a visual exclusion list based on arrest records. Right now, about 2,000 names are on the list, which is posted on housing authority community bulletin boards, available on computer terminals in police cars and provided to private security guards and constables who patrol the properties.
The trouble is that lots of individuals are known only by nicknames and, without a photograph, the names are meaningless.
The housing authority would like access to the photographs taken when individuals are arrested, in order to bolster security, but city officials told them that the state's Criminal History Record Information Act prohibits the en masse distribution of the mug shots. Now the authority is trying to get them through the Board of Probation and Parole.
If the housing authority still had its own police force, the obstacle would be removed, but its officers were merged into the city's police bureau in 2007. That was a financial necessity, but this unintended consequence requires attention. Law enforcement officials should be working together to solve this problem.