South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

 
 

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Commander Catherine McNeilly returns to head up Zone 3 Police

 

April 26, 2011



Disruptive student tenants, police staffing levels, and frequent commander changes were some of the topics discussed at the April 20 Zone 3 Public Safety Council monthly meeting in Arlington/Arlington Heights at the St. Clair Athletic Association.

Guest speakers for the meeting were Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly and Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey. City Councilman Bruce Kraus was also in attendance.

Ken Wolfe, public safety council president, who opened the meeting, said he is looking into starting a website for the council. The new email address for the public safety council is: Zone3PSC@gmail.com, and the new phone is 412-447-1803.

The city's safety website, http://communitysafety.pittsburghpa.gov, which provides community messages and the latest police alerts, is also a good tool, he said.

Commander McNeilly, who returned to the zone on Monday after a 15-month absence, spoke next. Acting Commander Lt. Shirley Sloan, who filled in for her, remains with the zone as a lieutenant.

Commander McNeilly, a 32-year department veteran, said she spent her time away from the zone updating and revising policies, which has not been done for three to four years. The work was done indoors, and required a lot of paperwork.

"It amazes me that you go away and come back, and how much things change," she said. "Give me a week or two and it will be like riding a bike again,".

She was proud that of the 12 Officer of the Month awards bestowed last Monday by the police chief for 2010, five of the officers are in Zone 3. Commander McNeilly attributed it to the "quality of arrests."

"That's really phenomenal," she said.

In her comments, Officer Luffey stressed the importance of reporting crime via a recent cruelty to animals case she investigated.

A dog starved to death in the backyard of a largely-vacant Lincoln-Lemington home. The occupant was a drifter who moved in and out without a permanent residence.

In talking with neighbors she learned everyone was aware of the dog's suffering through its cries and yelps, yet no one called police.

"If you feel in your heart that something is wrong, do something about it," she said.

To a complaint about officers' cars parked too tightly on the corner of the Zone 3 station, thereby blocking street views for motorists, Officer Luffey said the officers' parking lot is expected to be completed shortly.

Questioned about why Zone 3 receives only a few officers when a new class graduates, Commander McNeilly said staffing for each zone is determined via a formula. Factors include 911 calls, staffing levels, Part One and Part Two crimes, and size and population of zone.

Mr. Kraus said staffing levels are not adequate, and the bar saturation on the South Side is "bleeding your public services dry." Riding around with an officer on St. Patrick's Day for four hours there was a "ticker tape of calls," he said.

Commander McNeilly said the police cannot be the answer to everything. Instead, they have to look at what other cities are doing, such as on-line reporting of crimes such as vandalism and stolen credit cards: crimes in which they have no idea who the culprit could be.

In that case there is no reason for an officer to come to the resident's home.

Mr. Kraus said the city should be pro-active by spending $100,000 to bring the Responsible Hospitality Institute to Pittsburgh to deal with problems such as the effects of the South Side bar saturation. The non-profit RHI promotes cooperation among those involved in hospitality, safety, and community development groups.

But, he said, the mayor will not sign the legislation to spend the money.

A resident complained, college students have spread out on South Side, the Hilltop, Arlington, and Mount Washington.

While three calls in a month about students or any tenants in a residence is required for the home to be deemed a nuisance, the officer will sometimes decline to write up a complaint.

"This is a quality of life issue," said the resident.

Mr. Kraus said the universities are cooperating more now than ever before.

A problem, said an attendee, is landlords will rent to one student, but 12 will live there as evidenced by all the cars on the street.

Mr. Kraus said if a student's car has a university parking tag, to jot down its number as it will identify the student to the university.

"We have gotten good results that way," he said.

Another attendee said he has no problems with college students because their landlord is strict.

"I welcome them to keep the neighborhood going," he said.

Mr. Kraus said according to city code more than three unrelated people are not permitted to live at one address.

Commander McNeilly said if an officer will not take a report get the officer's name, the date and time, and call her. But the days of "we need more police are over," she said, as taxes are too high.

"Technology is cheaper than people, and it's out there," she said.

An attendee said he is frustrated at the revolving door of commanders in Zone 3.

"Sometimes we get tired of starting over all the time," he said.

"It's the chief's prerogative," said Commander McNeilly.

"We intend to keep that ball rolling, and do all we can," said Officer Luffey of providing service to the community regardless of leadership changes.

Mr. Kraus said the number one complaint he hears is about drugs. With St. Clair Village gone, the drugs are spreading out in surrounding areas.

To combat the problem, Officer Luffey said an unmarked car patrols the Hilltop from 3 to 11 p.m.

"The officers are really good at drug investigations," she said, calling drugs "a constant war."

In announcements, SAFE (Safe Areas For Everyone) Pittsburgh will be held on Sat ., May 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m ., at West Penn Hospital. There will be free lunch and parking. Visit: http://www.pitts burghpa.gov/publicsafety/safe/ for more information.

The next Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting will be on May 18 at the Elder-ado McKinley Center, 900 Delmont Ave ., Beltzhoover.

 

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