Allentown touts crime reduction, Warrington public safety plans
Greg Panza became involved in helping Allentown before he was hired as an employee of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation.
He is now the MWCDC program manager.
"I always believed in Allentown's potential," he said at a meeting of the Allentown CDC on Feb. 24. "There are great assets here."
MWCDC has recently allowed Mr. Panza to contribute his services to the Allentown CDC. He presented a slide show showing local improvements that are planned or have been made including repainting buildings, adding banners on Warrington Avenue, upgrading the area's gateways by plantings of trees and flowers and improving street lighting.
He and Zone 3 Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey walked through the area to gauge any "vulnerabilities" regarding safety. They concluded fences installed in front of alleys and vacant properties would help prevent assaults and robberies from perpetuators hiding out of sight.
"Here's some good news," he said. There has been an analysis comparing crime statistics from 2008 with those in 2010. The timeframe for making the comparison was when the former hostel in Allentown was converted into the Zone 3 police station in 2009.
With the new station, "overall crime is down 31 percent. Prostitution has been reduced by 80 percent. Violent crime has been reduced 45 percent. Crime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. has been reduced 49 percent," Mr. Panza said.
"We are sending a message up and down the street that we are not going to tolerate crime anymore," he said.
Judy Hackel, Allentown CDC president, said she hoped to reverse the negative perception of the neighborhood as being victimized by many crimes. She wants to attract new businesses and young families to move there. "It is really much safer here."
The Allentown CDC anticipates working with the South Side Slopes Association to "fix up" areas linking the two neighborhoods. New ACDC board member Jessica Zembower hoped the appearance of Arlington Avenue, from Warrington Avenue to the McArdle Roadway, could be improved. She said the retaining walls attract graffiti artists.
Mr. Panza has been meeting with local businesses to offer advice on forming a merchants' blockwatch to alert each other of any crimes.
"Greg works very hard. I'm glad he cares about Allentown," Ms. Hackel said.
"Our aim this year is to work on safety. We want to get more people involved. Encourage your neighbor to report crimes or suspicious activities," she said.
A blockwatch meeting for the area is scheduled to be held in the meeting room of the Zone 3 Police station at 6 p.m. March 15.
Also, a special City of Pittsburgh public safety session will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 21 at West Penn Hospital and the Mayor's Office is hoping for attendance of more than 250 people, spokesperson Liz Stiles said. There will be workshops on subjects such as interpreting crime statistics and starting block watches. The keynote speaker is U.S. Attorney David Hickton, the mayor and Police Chief Nate Harper will also give speeches. More details will be available later. Attendees will be asked to register for the event.
Ken Wolfe, legislative assistant for State Rep. Jake Wheatley, said he is waiting to learn in May if plans to repave Warrington Avenue will receive federal funding.
He also mentioned that a Senior Fair is scheduled April 1 at Point Park University. More information will be available later.
District Magisterial Judge Richard King said he was glad about the improvement regarding crime statistics.
"I also think that the harsh winter has cut things down," he said.
New members have been elected to the ACDC board. They are: Ms. Zembower, Annabell Kinney, Mr. Wolfe, Frank Kandcer and Brandon Wentzel.
Ms. Hackel announced the Warrington Avenue Farm Stand will operate in the parking lot at the Allentown Senior Center each Thursday during the spring and summer. The project provides fresh Pennsylvania-grown produce at affordable prices to neighborhoods that have limited or no access to farmers' markets.