After being cancelled due to snowy weather for several months, the Carrick Overbrook Block Watch meeting resumed for the first time this year on April 7.
The evening’s guest speaker was Kelly Henretty, an investigator with Pittsburgh’s Office of Municipal Investigations. She told the audience her office looks into complaints of misconduct against police officers, as well as other city employees.
“If any of you would have complaints about any city worker, feel free to call my office,” she said. “Hopefully you don’t need to do that, obviously, but if you do, you do have someone to call.”
The office has 12 investigators (about half are police officers), and each has some 20 cases. She said complaints have risen and her office is hiring to deal with this.
While her office looks into complaints, it’s not their role to recommend discipline, Ms. Henretty said.
With Bill Peduto taking over as Pittsburgh’s mayor, she said many changes are taking place. Her office, for example, has a new manager.
“We’re trying to become more involved in the community, and help all of you,” said Ms. Henretty, who lives in Carrick.
Also at the meeting, crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey offered accounts of several crimes and arrests in the community. This included the following reports:
--At a home in the 300 block of Meredith Street, police seized $14,000 cash, a gun and ammunition, marijuana, cocaine and drug sales paraphernalia.
--In the 1900 block of Westmont Avenue, two men were arrested after police found crack cocaine and other drug paraphernalia, weapons, nearly $3,000 in cash and police scanners. She said two people were arrested: 23-year-old Jordan Davis, and Reginald Dawson, 48. Officer Luffey pointed out children were present at this scene, and therefore, the suspects were charged with endangering the welfare of children.
--The BP gas station at 1927 Brownsville Road was robbed by four young males--ranging in age from 16 to 18 years old. They were armed with weapons in their waist bands, Officer Luffey said. They took almost $600 cash before they were apprehended. Canine officers were used in the arrest. Separately, KDKA reported the animals bit two of the suspects.
--The Boulevard Motor Mart at 2230 Saw Mill Run Road was the scene of a robbery in late February. Officer Luffey said after a man paid $4,400 cash for a car, he watched where the owner stored his money. She said the man returned hours later, saying he wanted a second car. While the man was on a test drive, his brother came in, stole cash, and ran away from the scene on Saw Mill Run.
Officer Luffey described these arrests as victories for the “good guys,” and praised the audience for reporting crimes to the police.
“I’m so proud of all of you,” Officer Luffey said. “You’re not afraid to share valuable information.”
Residents also provided their own reports about vandalism and crime.
Some residents at the meeting complained about broken windows at the closed St. Basil’s School. Officer Luffey said juveniles were arrested for the vandalism.
John Rudiak, from the Carrick Community Council, said the council has contacted the owner, who lives out of town and refuses to discuss selling the property.
A Bhutanese refugee living in Carrick complained other refugees living in the area have had their mailboxes vandalized, and someone threw a rock through his apartment window, just missing his 80-year-old mother while she slept.
“We need to know when these things happen,” Officer Luffey said. “Based on reports such as what you’re telling us tonight, we’re able to get more patrols in the area. We’re going to start quality of life patrol real soon. Based on these complaints is where we’re going to designate those extra officers.”
Other complaints were about motorized dirt bikes.
“It is a problem,” Officer Luffey said. “Last year, they were driving ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) over people’s graves in Birmingham cemetery. If that isn’t ignorant, I don’t know what is.”
The concern about dirt bikes is being addressed in Harrisburg, according to Alex Pazuchanics, legislative director for State Representative Erin Molchany.
“Representative Molchany’s been working on some legislation to license and title dirt bikes, because right now in Pennsylvania, ATVs and snowmobiles are required to be registered through the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” he said. “The law for some reason only applies to vehicles with three or more wheels.”
Mr. Pazuchanics says Molchany is looking for a Republican to cosponsor the legislation to give the police more tools to deal with the dirt bikes.
Some Carrick residents at the meeting questioned the number of, and public notification about, opening halfway and three-quarter rehabilitation houses in the community. This led to a discussion about the zoning of buildings with multiple unrelated adults. One man said multiple unrelated adults living in the same house can be problematic if the tenants all own cars and take up many spaces on small streets.
Dan Barrett, community relations manager for City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, pointed out under Peduto, there is now a director of building inspection, so “I think that’s all heading in the right direction.”
John Rudiak, from Carrick Community Council, offered a report at the meeting. He said the pastor of Stewart Avenue Lutheran Church asked him to announce the South Hills Legal Clinic offers assistance free of charge the first Wednesday of every month, 6-8 p.m. at the church. The advice can range from landlord-tenant disputes to family law. For appointments, call 412-355-6776.
Mr. Rudiak also announced a litter cleanup on Friday, April 25, beginning between 4:30 and 5 p.m. behind Carrick Shopping Center.
Mr. Rudiak said Davey Tree Company has offered wood chips from the trees being taken down along Becks Run Road. He said the materials are available for the community and will be located behind the Overbrook Fire Hall at Route 51 and Maytide Street.
The next meeting for the Carrick Community Block Watch is scheduled for Monday, May 5 at 7 p.m.