South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Free dinner program, leaving valuables in cars discussed at Z3


At the Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting of Dec. 18, crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey delivered an update on the “Get Stuffed With Love” program, designed to ensure that no residents go without Thanksgiving dinner.

She called the event “wonderful,” stating more than 1,600 dinners were distributed.

“It is definitely something we want to keep on doing,” she said.

It was Officer Luffey’s sixth year of organizing the delivery of free, warm meals on Thanksgiving Day. There were plenty of volunteers.

“Anyone who shows up, we will find a job for,” she said.

Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly said before Officer Luffey became involved with the program, it was very chaotic.

“What an operation it has turned out to be!” she said, crediting Officer Luffey for the turn-around.

She said the first year, residents in the surrounding neighborhood were afraid when they saw the police at their door, even though they had ordered the turkey dinners.

The residents told the officers to leave the food outdoors, and they would retrieve it once the officers left.

Today, they open their doors to them.

The program helps the homeless, elderly, and financially challenged who can’t feed their families, Commander McNeilly said.

On another topic, she said she is hoping for good things in 2014.

For instance, five zone officers volunteered for training on taking fingerprints. Once trained, they will be able to process stolen cars, etc., in the hope of getting evidence to make arrests.

Commander McNeilly said while the mobile crime unit usually processes crime scenes, there are so many scenes the unit can’t do it all.

She said the sense is if station personnel can do a little more, they will see more results.

The commander also said she hopes the new mayor will be more accepting of technology. The station could have its own Facebook page, for instance, and also email alerts to local residents as things happen.

She is also hoping for a partnership with regional assets like Google and Carnegie Mellon University, and making better use of technology and social media.

In local news, public safety council president Ken Wolfe said there were 24 thefts from autos in South Side last month.

He also said there is a program now in which motorists return to their parked cars to discover what looks to be a ticket. However, one side of the “citation” contains a reminder about not leaving items in vehicles which are readily visible to passers-by.

A campaign is needed to inform motorists on how not to be a victim, which could cut the theft rate, attendees agreed.

Commander McNeilly handed out a list of tips on how to avoid becoming a victim of theft from vehicle.

The tips include: don’t leave valuables in plain view; lock your vehicle and secure windows and sunroofs; park vehicles in well lighted areas; and if a vehicle is equipped with an anti-theft device, use it.

The items most commonly stolen from vehicles include: backpacks, briefcases, gym bags, wallets, purses, laptops, cell phones, portable GPS navigation systems, jewelry, and firearms.

“We have to keep reminding people,” Officer Luffey said.

Mr. Wolfe said one problem with informing people in South Side and Oakland is the high turnover rate because of so many renters.

Commander McNeilly added suspects travel from zone to zone, so the police can never be sure when they will strike. As it is the Christmas season, shopping areas are prime targets.

On another topic, Officer Luffey said she attended the 17th Street Block Watch, which had 22 attendees.

“I think it’s a pretty good group,” she said of the exchange of ideas and strategies on how to make the neighborhood better.

Mr. Wolfe said to call 911 if anyone spots a blocked sidewalk from lines of people. The comment was in response to an attendee’s question about long lines extending onto streets outside bars on East Carson St. in which patrons are being carded.

She said she was afraid someone will get hit by a car.

To a question about tinted windows in cars, Commander McNeilly said dark tinted front windows and windshield are illegal. However, there are tinted windows in some police cars for surveillance purposes.

The next Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting will be sometime in February.


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