Let the police do the policing, Zone 3 Council president says
The topics of the March 21 Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting ranged from the recent Florida shooting tragedy to illegal dog fighting to a safe and successful St. Patrick's Day celebration.
Ken Wolfe, public safety council president, began by talking about Florida teen Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by a neighborhood crime watch captain. Trayvon was unarmed.
"It's really hit home for me," he said.
He said while he preaches to get involved, "let the police, police."
"We are merely citizens trying to make our community better with data," he said. Attendees have often submitted information that has led to gun and drug arrests, he said.
"But do not think we are police because we are not," he said.
In Pennsylvania, the so-called Castle Doctrine allows a resident to protect their home, but they must see a weapon. In Florida, a resident can act if they have the perception they are being threatened.
"I think you're right on target. We do assist people, but we are not police," said city Councilman Bruce Kraus.
On another topic, Mr. Wolfe is putting together an anonymous questionnaire for Zone 3 police officers to help in determining how residents can assist with day-to-day issues. It first has to be approved by police officials and the union.
In her presentation, crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey said officials of the Humane Society of the U.S. met with her, Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly, and a representative of Animal Friends. They were told that dog fighting is escalating in the Pittsburgh area.
Officer Luffey then conducted an investigation which led to a search warrant at a Wilkinsburg home. There, she found the entire basement filled with blood, dogs in crates, and training equipment for dog fighting.
She saved 17 dogs which are now with the Humane Society. She learned the home owner would electrocute new dogs if he did not like the way they fought.
Officer Luffey said Commander McNeilly deserves credit for trusting her with the investigation.
She also said the commander needs everyone's help. If they think something is not right in the neighborhood, they should report the problem.
If they see dogs outside without water or shelter for a long time, they should call her. She recently cited someone whose dog was tied to the porch without shelter or water.
On another animal-themed topic, Officer Luffey she said the sold-out 14th annual "Biscuits Bingo," a fundraiser for local animal organizations held on March 10, was the most successful ever, raising $19,223.
Among the guest bingo callers was Steelers' quarterback Charlie Batch.
When Officer Luffey asked for questions or comments, a local couple said everyone in the neighborhood knows that a neighbor of theirs is selling drugs.
The neighbor and his wife do not work, but always have high-priced items such as a new car, quad, and television. They also do not allow their children to play outdoors.
The attendees said they recently heard the mother beating her six-year-old daughter, but did not call 911.
Officer Luffey said residents can call 911 and remain anonymous, but that police need an immediate response.
She will send Commander McNeilly and undercover detectives the address of the suspected drug dealers.
"We have to protect the innocent," she said.
Donna Wielock, who mans with Arlene Trost the satellite office of Mr. Kraus at 2320 Arlington Ave ., said residents can stop in to report such activities, and she and Ms. Trost will do all the work of informing the proper officials.
In other news, it was reported the Mallorca Restaurant on East Carson St. is having its valet double-park cars.
Mr. Kraus said there is no valet ordinance on the books.
He tried to work with the deputy police chief to craft such an ordinance, but the issue was getting an enforcement agent, so the effort stalled.
He hopes the issue is dealt with as part of the city's Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) agreement.
The RHI will be coming to Pittsburgh to deal with the effects of the South Side bar saturation. The RHI's approach is communication, cooperation, consensus, commitment, and collaboration among stakeholders.
In his report of St. Patrick's Day, Mr. Kraus estimated the crowd downtown at about 300,000, and about 30,000 to 40,000 on East Carson St.
To add to the potential for chaos, Vice-president Joe Biden attended the parade, after which he decided to view an NCAA tournament basketball game at the Consol Energy Center.
But Mr. Kraus said he did not receive a single complaint, and there were minimal incidents.
He said residents were wonderful, and "so happy" with police coverage.
Officer Luffey said she would pass the compliment along to colleagues.
The meeting ended with comments from Candice Gonzalez of the Mayor's Office, who serves as the meeting's "communications link" to the mayor. She was substituting for Liz Style, who had another meeting that evening.
Ms. Gonzalez said the deadline for property reassessment appeals is April 2. For more information, visit: www.pittsburghpa.gov/mayor/appealassist/.
She also said Project Pop Up, designed to inject life into the downtown business district, will launch on March 27. For details, visit: www.downtownpittsburgh.com/project-pop-up
The meeting concluded with news of another group – the Arlington 16th Ward Block Watch. Its next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on May 10 at Caliguiri Hall, also known as the St. Clair Athletic Association, 2400 Spring St.