“Whoever’s driving their dirt bikes over graves in the cemetery, please stop. It’s very disrespectful.”
Eight-year-old Katrina Luffey made this common sense appeal at last week’s Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meeting, where her mother, Officer Christine Luffey, gave a crime report and addressed numerous questions about on-street and private property use of off-street vehicles.
“It’s against the law to drive ATVs, dirt bikes and quads on city streets, or to trespass and ride them on someone else’s private property,” the Zone 3 public safety officer asserted.
“But we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to enforcing this,” she continued. “We either have to catch them in the act and issue a citation on the spot, or find out where they’re coming from, go there and warn them about all the laws they’re breaking.”
Catching drivers in the act isn’t easy Officer Luffey noted.
“For one thing, they’re mobile,” she said. “And they can drive off-road, into places where police cars can’t follow them.”
Take Birmingham Cemetery for example—police cars can’t follow ATVs through holes in the fencing, onto the cemetery’s grounds, where residents complained of seeing riders recently ride.
To stop unlawful entry to the cemetery, Officer Luffey recommended putting barriers in place, rather than repairing the fence, and encouraged residents to call 911 whenever they see illegal ATV use.
Calls should include detailed descriptions of the vehicle and driver and any information on their point of origin.
About penalties, she said a driver caught in the act will receive citations for driving an uninsured vehicle, driving an unregistered vehicle and for any traffic violations he committed, such as speeding, failing to stop at a stop sign or reckless driving.
If driving in the cemetery, or on other private property, they could also be cited for trespassing and, possibly, charged with burglary.
“Those fines add up to thousands of dollars—and, a warrant for your arrest if you ignore them,” she said.
With summer fever at a pitch, Officer Luffey reported police have already responded to such calls and have issued citations and warnings when appropriate. Police have also been out to enforce pet shelter laws, she said, and have cited owners who failed to provide 24/7 access to shelter and water for their animals.
“An animal can bake to death in the summer if it isn’t given access to shelter and water,” the officer lamented. “Call 911 when you suspect a pet is being neglected. We’ll come out and seize it before its owner lets it die.”
Disturbing as they are, dirt bikes and neglected pets were not the greatest of Officer Luffey’s concerns when it came to crime in Carrick. The officer said she was alarmed by four robberies there in May, two of which occurred on the same night.
The first of these two robberies occurred at 11:50 p.m. on May 29, at the corner of Sankey and Churchview avenues. The second occurred just two hours later, at the corner of Churchview and Spencer avenues.
Both robberies involved black male suspects, wearing hooded sweatshirts pulled to mask their faces. In each instance, a gun was pulled on the victim, the suspects barked commands like “Give me your wallet!” and physical prowess was used.
Because of the timeframe and similarities, Off. Luffey said she believes both robberies may have been committed by the same offenders, which she hopes does not indicate a pattern that’ll be repeated.
Putting residents on alert, she directed: “If someone approaches you and demands your wallet or other belongings, give them what they ask for. Don’t try to fight them. Your belongings can be replaced—you can’t.”
Off. Luffey assured the audience the robberies were being investigated by the force’s robbery squad, and plain-clothes police were actively hitting the streets.
Countering this statement, a resident asked why there was no greater visible police presence in the area, why police weren’t regularly visiting problem sites, and why officers were not more aggressively engaging with people and situations.
“Policing strategy prevents us from going to the same place, the same time, every day… We have to mix things up so that criminals don’t decipher our patrol schemes,” Officer Luffey replied.
When a handful of residents persisted Carrick needs more officers, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak offered a more bureaucratic explanation: “It’s a staffing issue. Several factors determine staffing by zone… One factor is need, based on the amount of calls received.
“Keep calling 911 to show administrators that there is a need in the area.”
Ms. Rudiak went on to say, with the signatures of 25 registered voters, citizens can get a public hearing with City Council on any matter. Though council cannot make police staffing decisions, she clarified, citizens can bring this issue before them, to plant seeds for change, as many who sit on council may move forward to different government posts after the next election.
Following the crime report, April Clisura, from Community Technical Assistance Center, took the floor to discuss the Brownsville Road safety study she’s been working on for Councilwoman Rudiak’s office.
Though no measures of action were discussed, Ms. Clisura distributed a handout containing a summary of approximately 100 responses to the questionnaires she distributed throughout the community earlier this year.
The results showed citizens were most concerned with traffic safety and safety after dusk. As per the latter, citizens indicated business development of non-bar enterprises, pop-up venues and sidewalk activities would help increase evening foot traffic and create a positive vibe on the street.
Ms. Clisura said she will align her findings with the results of other studies being conducted in the area and will present her final report to the councilwoman’s office in the coming months.
Also in attendance at the meeting were more than a dozen Bon Air residents, who visited to glean insight from the group on how to form their own block watch and tackle neighborhood problems they’re facing.
Meeting facilitator Carol Anthony applauded their initiative and invited them back to future Carrick/Overbrook meetings, including the “Communities Against Crime” event next month.
In lieu of a formal meeting, the event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tues., July 30, on the 2600 block of Brownsville Road, where citizens are asked to come out and make their presence known, in an effort to deter crime. Carrick residents, and those from surrounding areas, are welcome to set up tables for flea market/craft sales, business promotion, socialization and/or any other lawful endeavor.
“Last year, we saw a dramatic drop in drug dealing after the event,” Ms. Anthony commented. “If we see the same result this year, we’ll take the event to other problem areas and continue our crackdown on crime.”