A public service campaign for the Pittsburgh Gun Task Force that began last month encourages citizens to phone in information on illegal gun owners and dealers.
The task force was organized last January, and is made up of six full-time officers from the city police department's major crimes unit. The task force cooperates with Allegheny County prosecutors and federal and state law enforcement agencies in identifying and confiscating illegal weapons and prosecuting their owners.
Street-related shootings are up in Pittsburgh, even though overall crime rates are down. Gun violence has risen by more than 40% in Pittsburgh just this year.
The campaign positions the telephone as the "ultimate weapon" in the fight against illegal guns, and promotes the use of a hot line, 1-800-410-GUNS.
"In a lot of neighborhoods, people know who is dealing with illegal guns, but they fear for their lives. This is a totally anonymous way, through the 800 hot line number, to give information," said Dennis Morabito, senior VP-creative director at Burson-Mar-steller and VP-government relations for the Pittsburgh Ad Club.
The campaign consists of TV and radio spots and bus posters.
Representatives from various agencies donated their time in researching the problem and developing the creative strategy and concepts, Mr. Morabito said.
Member agencies of the Pittsburgh Ad Club contributing to the campaign include Werner Chepelsky & Partners, Dymun-Nelson & Co., Burson-Marsteller, Blattner/Brunner, Gray Baumgarten Layport and Marc Advertising.
Bell Atlantic contributed a $110,000 grant for production and promotion. In addition, Bell Atlantic provides technical support in developing a computerized database to help collect and analyze illegal weapons data.
"This is one of our public/private partnerships consistent with the kinds of initiatives Bell Atlantic has set to improve the quality of life in the communities we serve. Also, we have several thousand employees that work in and about the Pittsburgh [area], so this is an investment in employee safety," said Tom Richards, VP-Keystone Operations, Bell Atlantic.
Ads will run through at least yearend.
During the task force's first six months, more than 850 illegal hand guns and assault-type weapons were reported, with 524 weapons confiscated.