Public Safety Council learn more about urban hunting, fighting graffiti
Zone Six and the Zone 3 Public Safety Council co-hosted the Aug. 31 city-wide public safety meeting, which drew more than 100 attendees to St. Pamphilus Church in Beechview.
Among the police officials in attendance were: Chief Nate Harper, Assistant Chief Regina McDonald, Zone 6 Commander Scott Schubert, and Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly.
City council members attending included: Bruce Kraus, Theresa Kail-Smith, Darlene Harris, and Natalia Rudiak.
SWAT and other police vehicles were parked outside, with doors open for viewing.
Commander Schubert began the meeting by telling attendees to call 911.
"We want a safe, vibrant community, and by working together we can do that," he said.
For community messages and the latest police alerts, he suggested attendees visit the community safety website, www.pittsburghpa.gov/publicsafety/communitysafety.htm.
While one has to register to receive alerts, tips can be submitted anonymously without signing up.
The evening's first presentation included two representatives of the state Game Commission who spoke about hunting, which they called "the only control we have over animals." Otherwise, the animals numbers would escalate.
Putting out food for animals is the worst thing residents can do. It gathers all types of animals to a central site, at which diseases are spread among all the animals. Corn for deer is the worst as their stomachs cannot properly digest the grain.
Deer can be hunted in Allegheny County with shotgun and bow. Hunting is not permitted in cemeteries.
The firearm discharge ordinance does not apply during legal hunting season. Hunting ends at the end of January.
"We want legal hunters. If it is not your backyard, you must have permission to hunt there," a representative said.
Three Game Commission officers are assigned to the Pittsburgh area, with their main office in Ligonier. To contact them, call 724-238-9523@or 724-832-5316.
Next, detectives Frank Rende and Daniel Sullivan of the Graffiti Task Force discussed their efforts in the investigation of graffiti crimes. The third member of the team, Det. Alphonso Sloan, was not present.
The officers said graffiti is a crime that attacks quality of life things, and can be costly to homeowners and businesses through clean-up costs and lowered property values. It also sends a message the neighborhood is unsafe or in decline.
The task force was formed five years ago; it began with an empty office, a file cabinet, and three computers. Its team members canvassed the city, initially focusing on South Side and Carrick.
The officers asked attendees who witness graffiti vandalizing to call 911, as they follow up on all graffiti leads. You may not see the vandals, but simply hear the sound of spray cans or smell the paint. In either case, call 911.
Taggers are nocturnal criminals who do most of their damage at night, emerging in ski masks carrying backpacks.
Residents should also call 911 if they see juveniles on the street after midnight with backpacks. Most likely the backpacks contain art supplies, gloves, markers, clanging cans, and stencil for tagging. The vandals might also hide materials in oversized coats with pockets.
Since the task force was formed, the taggers on the original Top 10 List of city graffiti vandals have been arrested, including a prolific vandal with a moniker of HERT. His property damage was estimated at $200,000.
The arrest of another prolific tagger, Daniel Montano, marked the biggest graffiti prosecution in U.S. history to date. His vandalism tab was $713,800.
He is now in a halfway house after serving his sentence of two-and-a-half to five years in state prison.
The task force received a national award from the Fraternal Order of Police for the Montano case.
Taggers operate in groups, or crews, with names like FTC ("full-time crew"), HGH ("home-grown heroes"), and MHA ("most-hated artists").
The task force's goal is to arrest the crew leader as often members see what is happening to the leader and back off.
As of 2011, the task force has identified over 600 individual taggers and 40 tagger groups in the city.
Unfortunately, such success often serves to entice out-of-town vandals to travel here and try to outsmart police to increase their street credibility. Sometimes the taggers post photographs of themselves on-line beside the damaged property, or their so-called "art."
To an attendee's comment about graffiti on her garage door, the detectives said to always call 911. A resident must file a