After 18 years as president of the Knoxville 30th Ward Block Watch, Lucy Frankwitt announced she has resigned her post, effective this month.
She cited the dwindling participation in the block watch by community residents as one of her reasons for stepping down during the organization's meeting at the St. Sava Orthodox Church on Knox Ave. September 26. Sharon Ward has assumed the position of leading the block watch.
Ironically, the announcement came at the most well-attended meeting the organization had in almost two years as about 40 persons showed up, including quite a few for the first time in several years.
During her announcement, Mrs. Frankwitt also noted that there are fewer public officials who attend the Knoxville meetings as well, claiming the mayor of the City of Pittsburgh no longer appears like he or she used to.
She cited mayors Dick Caliguiri, Sophie Masloff and Tom Murphy as regular guests during the organization's 26 years of existence. The last time a city mayor (Mr. Murphy) showed up at the Knoxville block watch was the summer of 2003.
In fairness to the late Mayor Bob O'Connor, he was only actively in office for six months before succumbing to cancer when he was hospitalized in July, 2006.
In the first 13 months that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has been in office, he has not made an appearance in Knoxville and has not even responded to the invitations to attend that have been sent to his office.
"The mayor was invited tonight as well as the [Zone 3 Police] Commander [Larry Ross], but they [public officials] have forgotten about us here in Knoxville," Mrs. Frankwitt said. "We have no [Catholic] church. We have no school. They don't know Knoxville is here."
Zone 3 Police Officer Christine Luffy, a crime prevention officer and animal rights advocate, did speak to the residents at the block watch meeting. Also, Democratic District 3 council candidate Bruce Kraus showed up about 30 minutes into the 90-minute meeting.
Ms. Luffy listened to the resident's complaints about young children running rampant in the neighborhood. They claim children, as young as 8 years old, have been breaking into the houses in the neighborhood. Some of them are abandoned, but in several cases the children have brazenly walked into the homes of elderly people and taken ‘whatever they wanted' with the resident present in their own house.
They also complained about the graffiti problem in the back alleys where many unattached garages to the homes exist. One woman complained that she has had to paint over graffiti to her garage six times in the past two years.
There were also two men attending the meeting who claimed they were new to the neighborhood, having grown up in the Pacific Northwest part of the country. Both complained that they can not walk in the business district near the Triangle Café without being constantly approached about buying drugs.
"They ask if your ‘good' [supplied with drugs to get high] or not," noted one of the men.
Officer Luffy noted that the police in Zone 3 "have been really busy with basically a skeleton crew" to work with. She noted that Zone 3 accounts for 33 percent of the city's geographical area of 57 square miles, by far the largest of the five police zones in Pittsburgh.
She said that police can answer lower priority calls as a lone respondent, but when it comes to answering domestic disputes or stopping vehicular violators, the police must work in pairs because of the danger involved.
There were a myriad of other problems listed by the attendees at the meeting so Officer Luffy suggested the residents come up with a priority list to determine which problems need to be attacked first.
She said she learned this from working with former Zone 3 Commander Bill Joyce. Officer Luffy referred to a "wish list" and by compiling the problems in an organized fashion she believes the community and police can work together in whittling down the list two or three at a time. Instead of trying to get rid of all the problems at once, she suggested chipping away at the list by coming up with "small wins."
Officer Luffy had some good news for the Knoxville residents, informing them that the Zone 3 coverage area would be reduced when Zone 4 in the West End would be reopened for 12 neighborhoods in that part of town.
As of Jan. 1, Zone 3 will no longer include the West End, Crafton Heights, Sheraden, Elliott, Westwood and several other communities west of Route 51.
"My best advice [to the residents] is to be persistent," Officer Luffy told the audience. "If someone asks you if you want drugs, call 911 and get the best description that you can [in identifying the drug dealer]."