"Violence" was the theme of the June 4 meeting of the Carrick/Overbrook block watch meeting, held in the Pittsburgh Concord K-5 auditorium.
Before the guest speakers discussed various aspects of the topic, Carol Anthony, who conducted the meeting, asked residents to let her know if there is a block watch on their street so she can keep a record of them.
As the Pittsburgh Concord school will be closing for the summer, a new site is being sought for the block watch meetings through August.
To a question from the audience about calling 311 on weekends, she said to leave a message and a 311 staff member will return the call on Monday.
The first speaker, a volunteer for the Women's Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh, said she fled her home a year ago due to domestic violence from her husband. At the time, she knew nothing of the domestic violence terminology, such as a PFA, which is a Protection From Abuse restraining order issued by a district judge or Common Pleas judge.
"There's a whole other language to this," the woman said.
After fleeing her home, she called her lawyer, and then the Women's Center & Shelter 24-hour, free hotline: 412-687-8005.
"They were so welcoming and knowledgeable," she said. Among other information on available resources, the hotline worker explained about a PFA. The abused woman obtained an emergency PFA that evening, and had it extended the next day.
While bruises and loud rampages are readily recognizable signs of domestic violence, there are also unseen signs, she said, such as being terrorized in one's own home with threats of bodily harm and more.
While she was able to create a safe residence for herself and her children once they left the abusive environment, the Women's Center & Shelter will provide sanctuary to those in need.
Other services include: accompanying victims as they proceed through the legal system; teaching children alternative responses to violence; assisting women with safety planning; educating the public about the nature of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV); and conducting systems advocacy at the local, state, and federal levels.
It also conducts programs for men.
The next speaker, Molly Burke, a staff member with The Center for Victims of Violence and Crime (CVVC), said the agency serviced 28,000 men, women, and children last year in Allegheny County.
The CVVC offers a continuum of services, training, and restorative justice opportunities.
The CVCC is free and confidential, and provides a 24-hour helpline: 412-392-8582.
Its mission is to offer: help for crime victims and their families; information on victim's rights; medical and court accompaniment; therapy/counseling; support groups; financial help for victims; offender release notification; community education programs; and conflict mediation services.
The latter takes place before a crime occurs, and includes helping resolve family and neighbor issues, and tenant/landlord problems.
Anyone can report child abuse, Ms. Burke said. The signs to look for include: sudden changes in a child's behavior; new learning problems; lack of adult supervision; arriving early and staying late at school; and the child and parent barely looking, or touching, each other.
The signs of child sexual abuse include: difficulty walking or sleeping; nightmares; and running away from home. In some cases, the child will report the sexual abuse to authorities.
Those who see children being neglected or abused, should call the state ChildLine reporting number: 1-800-932-0313.
Next, District Judge Richard King said to obtain a PFA, you must go Downtown to the Court of Common Pleas Family Division, 440 Ross St. – the old county jail building -- weekdays during work hours. After hours, go to the local district judge's office.
An emergency PFA is issued if the person feels imminent danger. If that or a standard PFA is violated, the violator is arrested.
While an emergency PFA is issued on the basis of one side of a story, both sides may speak at a PFA hearing. Domestic violence meetings are held Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
"There's a lot of help out there for everyone," he said.
The final speaker, Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly, discussed an initiative she began last year, called quality-of-life patrols. Lt. Larry Scirotto volunteered to spearhead this year's effort.
Lt. Scirotto asked block watch members to choose three troublesome areas, and he will address all problems in each area. The 15 other communities in Zone 3 must also be addressed.
Mr. King said one of the biggest complaints he receives are motorists parking on the narrow Denise St., Midwood Ave., and Dartmore St., and the vandalism on the vehicles.
Another big complaint is the panhandling in the block at the top of Maytide St.
The next Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meeting will be at 7 p.m. on July 9 (change of date for this month only) at a site to be determined.