South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Associated Press 

Judge explains his role in the community


October 30, 2007

A brief overview by Gene Ricciardi on his role as a magisterial district judge kicked-off the Oct. 23 meeting of the Upper Knoxville Block Watch which drew about 41 attendees.

The other guest speaker was an undercover narcotics officer from the city Police Department's Bureau of Narcotics.

Among Mr. Ricciardi's responsibilities are handling traffic and non-traffic summary offenses. The non-traffic offenses include underage drinking, disorderly conduct, etc. The punishment for summary offenses is up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine, and court costs.

A district justice presides when a resident chooses to sue another individual up to $8,000 in a civil suit. District justices also sign arrest and search warrants, and officiate at marriage ceremonies. District justices also preside at arraignments and preliminary hearings.

After being arrested, a person is taken to the county jail for processing, such as being fingerprinted. Next, comes the arraignment, in which the district justice sets bond.

A suspect may be released on his/her own recognizance or a bond. Suspects who don't have the money can buy a bond from a bail bondsman, who keeps the money when the case is completed.

The purpose of a bond is to guarantee a suspect's appearance at the preliminary hearing, which must be held 3 to 10 days after the arraignment.

At that hearing, the district attorney must demonstrate the possibility that the suspect committed a crime. The district justice can dismiss the charge, or hold the suspect for Common Pleas Court.

In his talk, the undercover detective said our city is plagued by drugs, addicts, and dealers. All races and income levels are affected by it.

About 60 percent of the buyers and sellers inside the city reside in the suburbs and neighboring townships and counties. He estimated that 90 percent of all crimes in the city are drug-related, from thefts to home invasions to assaults and worse, as the criminal needs the money to buy drugs.

The officer said the drug problem begins with youngsters ages 8-13 with the use of tobacco. They sneak their parents' cigarettes, or pay an older teen to buy them.

By the time they are ages 10-12, they want to try something else, like marijuana. That leads to heroin and cocaine. Because of the danger of HIV from needles, more and more drug users are snorting cocaine and heroin, he said.

Drugs give rise to gangs, and gangs accumulate guns, which is another big problem.

Anyone seeing drug activity should report all the details and walk away. Never approach the users or dealers as they can be violent, and are often armed.

In neighborhood news, block watch president Mary Ann Bennett read a list of 102 reported crimes in Knoxville from Sept. 1 to Oct. 15.

They were: 1 accident, 3 aggravated assault, 2 armed person, 7 burglary, 12 criminal mischief, 1 DOA, 14 drugs, 5 DUI, 2 false ID, 10 harassment, 2 hit-and-run, 1 identity theft, 6 incident, 1 PFA violation, 4 reckless endangerment of a person, 5 simple assault, 2 stolen vehicle, 2 terrorist threats, 5 theft from auto, 7 theft from person, 5 theft from residence, 1 trespassing, 4 violation of firearms.

The distribution of the 102 total reports in the areas covered by Knoxville's three block watches are: 35 reports, or 34 percent, in Upper Knoxville; 55 reports, or 54 percent, in the 30th Ward; and 12 reports, or 12 percent, in McKinley.

Of the 35 reports in Upper Knoxville, the breakdown by blocks/streets is: accident (1): Knox Ave. at 200 block of Orchard Place aggravated assault (2): 400 block of Jocunda St .; 100 block of Charles St. at Amanda Ave. burglary (4): 100 block of Jucunda St. (2); 300 block of Charles St. (1); and 100 block of Rochelle St. (1) criminal mischief (3): 100 block of Jucunda St .; 100 block of Orchard Place; and 100 block of Charles St.

DOA (dead on arrival) (1): 400 block of Orchard Place drugs (6): Grimes Ave. at 200 block of Charles St .; 100 block of Jucunda St .; Michigan Way at Grimes Ave .; Knox Ave. at 100 block of Charles St .; Knox Ave. at 200 block Rochelle St .; 200 block of Zara St. false ID (1): 100 block of Zara St. firearms violation (1): 100 block of Charles St. harassment (1): 100 block of Charles St. identity theft (1): 200 block of Jucunda St.

REAP (reckless endangerment of a person (2): 100 block of Charles St .; 400 block of Zara St. simple assault (4): 200 block of Michigan Way at Knox Ave. (2); 100 block of Rochelle St. (2) stolen vehicle (1): 100 block of Rochelle St. theft from auto (4): 200 block of Orchard Place (1); 300 block of Rochelle St. (1); 100 block of Charles St. (1); 200 block of Rochelle St. (1) theft from person (1): 200 block of Rochelle St. theft from residence (2): 400 block of Charles St .; 400 block of Rochelle St.

The block watch's next meeting will be in 2008.


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