September 25, 2012 |

Music as a deterrent to loitering, cameras discussed at Zone 3

The Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting of Sept. 19 began with birthday wishes and cake from attendees for crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey.

Commander Catherine McNeilly was also in attendance.

There will be no Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting in October. Instead, the issues will be discussed at the city-wide public safety meeting on Oct. 16 at St. John Vianney parish center, 832 Climax St. The time will be announced in an upcoming South Pittsburgh Reporter.

Loitering on sidewalks in front of businesses was the evening's first topic.

Commander McNeilly said although businesses post signs saying loiterers will be prosecuted by police, there is no ordinance that prevents individuals from loitering on public sidewalks. They are free to stand where they want as long as they are not totally blocking the sidewalk.

If it is established they are defiant about blocking the sidewalk, the police can only issue a citation.

"You need to understand our constraints," she said.

Researching how other cities deal with the issue, she discovered in Seattle some businesses play music at irregular intervals outside their establishments. They choose a kind of music loiterers find annoying enough to make them want to disperse.

It can be synchronized among businesses up and down the street.

"It's not an expensive option to put a speaker outside," she said.

Financial systems/project manager Gwendolyn Moorer, project manager for the city camera project, discussed erecting surveillance cameras for viewing troublesome spots, such as the six cameras in the South Side. Two cameras are planned for Warrington Ave. by year's end.

Ms. Moorer said there is also interest from groups, like block watches, in purchasing cameras to be placed in key locations to monitor criminal activity in neighborhoods.

In Zone 2, neighbors in the Strip District erected cameras which they purchased. The police view the images via the Internet, as requested.

She said a digital IP-based camera is preferred over analog because it provides higher quality images for use as an investigative tool.

To an attendee's question of whether the six South Side cameras have been successful, Commander McNeilly said they have been consulted following accidents and crimes. As an example, she said if someone is beat up, the person can request the cameras' videos be reviewed.

Ms. Moorer said any group interested in purchasing cameras should contact Commander McNeilly for specifications and quality standards.

She said the goal for next year is to compile a database of cameras owned by all individuals, businesses, and organizations so when a crime occurs in a specific area the owners of nearby cameras can be contacted.

For more information on the permitted use of, and limitations on, public security cameras, visit the city website. Click on "city code," and type "camera" in the search engine.

Next, a Mt. Washington resident said he frequently sees young teens drinking alcohol outdoors, and tossing their glass bottles in yards on Bigbee St. instead of trash bins.

He said if they are chased from Bigbee, and go to the trails, they could do damage there with the shattered glass.

Officer Luffey said to call 911 for underage drinking.

She said a youth almost died last weekend from alcohol poisoning. Just that evening, she spoke with parents who told her of the damage to their children from alcohol.

"I feel in my heart of hearts that this needs to be reported," Officer Luffey said of the Mt. Washington youths.

Officer Luffey continued that after receiving complaints about a homeowner harboring numerous cats, she paid the woman a visit. She discovered she was placing food outdoors for cats.

Neighbors are also complaining about a man who drives by and throws food from the car for area cats. Besides all the feral cats in the neighborhood, there is concern about the food attracting rodents.

Officer Luffey said she can find no record of the license number given to her by neighbors of the man's car. If he is located, he can be cited for littering.

A Caligiuri high-rise building administrator said residents have been complaining about loiterers outside the building. She likes the idea of playing music to chase the loiterers away.

Commander McNeilly said she might also send some quality-of-life patrols there.

In other news, Kyle Stewart, executive assistant to Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr., said the office recently installed a pedestrian crosswalk sign at Beltzhoover and Kathleen avenues.

He also announced news of the free Health Expo for African American Living, or H.E.A.L., which will be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Oct. 14 at the Thelma Lovette YMCA, 2114 Centre Ave.

It is open to everyone regardless of ethnicity or residency, and will feature children's activities, preventative health screenings, prizes, healthy cooking demonstrations, and more.

For more information, contact Mr. Stewart at 412-471-7760.

Before the meeting's conclusion, a South Side resident said there is a homeless problem at South Side Park, including three tents under the Mission Street Bridge.

She said organizations are spending a lot of money trying to attract people into the park, but visitors are fearful of the homeless and their habitats.

She has, however, noticed a greater police presence there.

"We are on it," Commander McNeilly said.

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