April 1, 2008 |

Crime, nuisance properties hot topics for discussion at the 29th Ward Block Watch

Crime, nuisance properties, and snow removal were some of the topics addressed at the March meeting of the 29th Ward Carrick Block Watch.

The evening began with a brief presentation by crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey.

She announced news of "Biscuits Bingo," a fundraiser of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police on Saturday, April 12, beginning with a bingo at 1 p.m. The location is the Pittsburgh Elks Club #11, 5800 Buttermilk Hollow Rd. Children are welcome.

The $20 tickets for the 10th annual fundraiser may be purchased in advance or at the door. All proceeds benefit local animal organizations.

In the Carrick crime report from Feb. 12 to March 12, there was: 6 aggravated assaults, 7 burglaries, 19 thefts, 2 robberies, 2 vehicle thefts, and 5 drug arrests.

Of the two robberies, one was of a 58-year-old woman who was knocked on the ground one afternoon by a young black male who grabbed her purse and ran.

The other was the robbery of a UniMart at 2 a.m. The male suspect's face was covered, so the clerk could not tell his race.

Officer Luffey said three arrests of students were made in the past month at Carrick High School. Two arrests were of females detected by the metal detector of carrying box cutters with razor blades. The other arrest was of a boy harboring a knife with a two-inch blade.

The next speaker was District 3 Councilman Bruce A. Kraus. Councilman Jim Motznik, who shares Carrick with Mr. Kraus, was also present.

Mr. Kraus began by thanking block watch coordinator JoAnn Herman for her 27 years of service to the organization.

He said he lived in Carrick in the early 1980s, and that his father operated an Isaly's on Brownsville Rd. for years.

When he asked for questions, an attendee complained of her street not being cleared of snow during a recent storm, rendering the passage of busses and parents impossible. She is also trying to get a nearby bus stop for her two handicapped daughters.

Mr. Kraus told her to call his office. With medical reasons for snow removal, her street will be put on the priority list.

He said with a concentration on removing snow from main roads, he is concerned that residents who have to get off secondary roads to get to main roads to get to work are not being considered.

To a complaint about salt boxes not being filled, Mr. Kraus said the city is spending $250,000 on salt this season. Officials don't feel the boxes are effective as residents take it for their own property.

He told the attendee to call his office and tell him where the box is, and he'll talk with Public Works Director Guy Costa.

An attendee complained that residents of a five-unit apartment building on Brownsville Rd. set their garbage out days before pick-up. The problem is the landlord does not provide adequate dumpsters. He has been cited numerous times, and pays the fines.

Mr. Kraus said to call 311, the city's phone number for government information and non-emergency services. Callers receive a reference number so they can call back for a follow-up report.

Mr. Kraus said after calling 311 and receiving a reference number the caller should contact his and Mr. Motznik's offices with the complaint and reference number for follow up.

He also suggested taking photographs of the problem and emailing to him so he can show officials and say "this is what's going on."

Another tool, said Mr. Motznik, is the nuisance property legislation passed last year but which has not yet been implemented. It applies to all: businesses, homes, and rentals.

After three violations within 90 days, the property becomes a nuisance property. The owner then has to pay back the city on all costs incurred, such as police and building inspector calls to the site, unless action is taken to evict the tenant.

Continued infractions would move the matter to the district attorney's office.

Another quality-of-life tool is the landlord registry, in which all landlords must register properties annually. Currently, if the Bureau of Building Inspection tries to cite a property the owner often can't be located.

To an attendee's concern about loitering kids, Mr. Kraus said sometimes you have to come up with "creative ways without police involvement."

For example, an Arlington Avenue storefront plays country-western music out onto the sidewalk to chase the loiterers away. In Mount Washington, a pizza shop does the same with classical music.

To a concern expressed about local crime, Mr. Motznik said there has been an increased police presence in Carrick over the years — although sometimes it is undercover so not visible to the community.

He also said "let us know what the problems are" — he gives the police and Public Works departments the problem addresses he is told about at community meetings.

District Magisterial Judge Richard King said there is not enough visibility of police officers on Brownsville Rd. to deter crime. He suggested writing letters to Mr. Kraus saying more officers are needed, and then the councilman can show the letters to the mayor.

He agreed much undercover police work is occurring.

Regarding the nuisance property legislation, he said a cited landlord can have a hearing before a five-member board appointed by council and by the mayor.

"I think this board will be real busy," he said.

Mr. Kraus told an attendee concerned about South representation on the board to collect signatures on a petition requesting such representation, and send it to his office.

Mr. King concluded with news of a basketball game pitting area youngsters and police against the Steelers, which will be held at 7:30 p.m. on April 9 in the Carrick High School gym. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. The cost is $7, with proceeds benefitting the Carrick Community Athletic Association.

The next block watch meeting will be on April 9.

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