South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

 
 

By Sarah Beth Martin
Contributing Writer 

Block watch celebrates successes, learns details of area assault

 


As Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey distributed copies of the August crime statistics for Carrick at last Monday’s meeting of the Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch, she prepared those in attendance to receive a mixed message.

“While I’m happy to say that crime statistics for Carrick went down over the past 30 days, I’m not too happy to tell you about an alarming crime that took place just the other night,” the Zone 3 police officer stated.

Officer Luffey went on to describe a call her station received at 1:29 a.m. on the morning of Sunday, Sept. 8, reporting two men had been assaulted with weapons on the 2000 block of Brownsville Road. One man was shot in the shoulder, and the other was beaten with a baseball bat.

According to the police report, the first victim, a 44-year-old white man, told responding officers he was sitting outside his brother’s building, waiting for his wife to pick him up, when two black men approached him and one man asked him for a cigarette. When he stood up to give the man a cigarette, one of the men pulled out a gun and ordered him into the apartment building, where he then demanded that the victim give him his money.

The victim said he threw $40 on the floor and then ran up the stairs to his brother’s apartment unit and into his brother’s bedroom to wake him. He was followed into the bedroom by the assailant, who shot the brother in the shoulder when he sat up in bed.

The first victim pushed the suspect into the wall and grabbed a baseball bat from beside the bed. A fight ensued in the bedroom, and the suspect was able to get the bat away from the first victim, using it to beat him in the head and face before fleeing the apartment.

On his way out the door, the suspect grabbed a cell phone off of the floor, which belonged to another person, a 45-year-old man residing in the apartment, making him the third victim in this series of crimes. The third victim told police he was asleep during the incident in the bedroom and did not see what happened.

The two injured victims were transported by ambulance to Mercy Hospital for treatment. The police found a shell case in the bedroom, where they also found the baseball bat with blood on its tip and handle.

Officer Luffey said the case is under investigation, and that the suspect, if and when apprehended, will face charges of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment of another person, burglary and discharge of a firearm.

But, again, she reminded everyone the overall crime statistics were down, have been on a downward drift since the monumental drug bust in Carrick this past April, and this incident, although unfortunate and horrific, should not make residents feel unsafe in their neighborhood and should not be taken to mean the vigilant efforts of the block watches are ineffective.

The Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meeting that occurs at Concord Elementary at 7 p.m. on the first regular Monday each month is not a meeting of one block watch, but of several. There are within the Carrick and Overbrook neighborhoods numerous block watch groups, many of which are based on one street.

Representatives of these various block watches, as well as other interested citizens, whether or not affiliated with a group, come together for the monthly meetings to share information about what’s going on in their specific surveillance areas and to get a comprehensive glimpse at life in Carrick/Overbrook.

When Officer Luffey issued the above reminder, members of the different block watches raised their hands to comment. Several people noted the pride they take in their groups, while some listed their group’s longer term accomplishments and others reaffirmed their commitments to making the area’s streets safer.

Turning a report on tragedy into an opportunity to discuss triumph, a few members brought up concerns that have been plaguing the Carrick and Overbrook communities for the past several months and applauded the noticeable decrease in unlawful activity that resulted from the combined efforts of the police and their block watch groups.

At the top of the list were dirt bikes and dogs. During Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meetings held earlier this year, residents complained about people riding dirt bikes on private property and in the cemetery, and about neglected dogs left in yards for hours or days without shelter, water or food. Both of these problems, numerous citizens observed, have improved significantly since they were initially raised.

“That’s what happens when we all do our jobs,” Officer Luffey told her audience. “You kept calling, and we kept coming out on your streets to investigate your complaints.

“Though it’s hard to catch these types of offenders in the act, we’ve been able to issue citations and let them know that we know what’s going on and are watching them. That’s been enough to scare them off in many cases; and, if we haven’t scared them yet, they’ll be scared soon enough by the costs associated with the citations they receive.”

Ms. Luffey explained the only legal outdoor shelter for dogs in Pennsylvania is an insulated doghouse that sits three inches off of the ground. Failure to provide such a shelter, or to provide access to water or food, will result in a citation, she said. The initial citation includes a $100 fine plus court costs, and subsequent citations come with a $500 fine plus court costs.

Officer Luffey also said offending owners face the possibility of losing their pets. If police arrive on the scene to find the animal in imminent danger, they can seize it on the spot. If the animal is not in imminent danger, they can get a warrant to further investigate and possibly remove the pet at a later time.

Moving on to other topics, Donna Williams, outspoken leader of the Kirk Avenue Block Watch, whom many consider an authority on proper block watch procedure, held up a copy of the “Block Watch Community” sign she encourages all block watch members to hang in their front windows. Doing so, she said, will alert criminals it is the residents, not them, who own the streets and will unquestionably make visible the block watch’s presence.

Speaking of visibility, one man from the audience suggested area residents keep their porch or yard lights on in the evenings, not only so the streets aren’t dark and inviting to criminal activity but also so police can have a better view and navigate of the landscape when responding to calls.

On the matter of visibility, Officer Luffey said there have been calls to the station where officers were unable to easily find the houses because the house numbers were not visible. “We can’t help you if we can’t find you,” she chimed, “so please make sure your house number is posted somewhere we can see it.”

Following Officer Luffey’s police report and open discussion, Liz Style, from the Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, took the floor to announce some upcoming events that may be of interest to Carrick/Overbrook residents.

A city-wide public safety meeting is slated for mid-October, sponsored by Police Zones 3, 6 and 1, and open to the public at large. One of two such events held each year, the meeting will call together experts from across the city to speak on a contemporary hot topic in public safety. The time, date, and location of this event are yet to be determined.

But the time and date of another big event is set. Ms. Styles said the official Halloween holiday will be celebrated this year on Thurs ., Oct. 31, with trick or treating between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30 in the evening. Halloween brochures for children will be available Oct. 1, and will include games, safety tips and nutritional advice to help feed young minds.

A “Hard-to-Recycle” event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Mall at Robinson on Sat. Oct 5. Small appliances, computers, cell phones and up to two televisions will be collected free of charge, while certain nominal fees apply for the collection of other items such as CFL bulbs, Freon-containing appliances and batteries. Paper shredding is also available for $5 a box.

State Representative Erin Molchany announced there will be an information session on the Affordable Care Act at St. Pamphilus Church in Beechview at 10 a.m. on Wed ., Sept 18. Panelists will discuss the rollout effective Oct. 1.

Ms. Molchany said those unable to attend the event are welcome to call her office, at 412-343-2094, for information on the rollout and/or questions about the act.

 

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