South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Zone 3 residents express concerns over safety issues to commander


At the Zone 3 Public Safety Council Meeting of May 21, a Carrick resident said while she has faith in Zone 3, there is a “revolving door” of crime in Carrick and Overbrook.

Criminals simply pay the fine and move to another street, she said of her frustration with the legal system.

“I don’t know how you guys do it,” she told Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly and crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey.

The commander said her first introduction to prioritizing resources occurred 20 years ago in Zone 1.

On the same day a shooting took place outside a grade school in Manchester, she received calls from livid residents about loud swearing by youngsters on a street corner in Troy Hill.

She thought, “what am I going to do?” Both issues were important to residents in each area.

“How do I triage my resources?” was the dilemma.

“We’ll never have enough, but we have some stuff,” she told the Carrick resident.

The police must gauge and adjust. They win some, lose some. Some things are in their control, and some are not.

“But we’re never going to quit,” she said.

Regardless, there are limitations.

“We have no control over what the courts, judges, probation does,” she said.

Once a suspect is arrested, it is the police department’s responsibility to see that everything is done between the lines. Otherwise, the suspect is out on a technicality.

To a resident’s concern about a serious domestic dispute situation in the neighborhood, Commander McNeilly said once they alert police they should remain out of it.

To a question of how residents can help the police, the commander said it is a help in simply attending public safety meetings and talking with the officers present.

To a resident’s complaint the local state representative is not doing enough to address neighborhood concerns, John Tokarski said we can contact other officials, like state Rep. Dom Costa, a former police officer.

Mr. Tokarski said changing the laws regarding the courts starts at the state level.

Judges must also be pressured. As they are elected every 10 years, they have jobs regardless of residents’ dissatisfaction with the system.

State laws also have to start addressing juvenile crime as youngsters have changed over the past 50 years.

Mr. Tokarski is helping Liz Style with the new SaferTogether Pittsburgh in the Dept. of Public Safety that is a collaborative strategy for community safety.

He said he and Ms. Style want to teach neighborhoods “to fish for themselves.”

Mr. Tokarski said the program is trying to make life better for residents, and that there are a lot of resources we don’t know we have. He and Ms. Style will also help block watches line up speakers.

“We will help you find who you need to talk to,” he said.

The Carrick resident said she does not like having her neighborhood referred to as “blighted.”

The problem is the criminal element moves from neighborhood to neighborhood, and she wants to get rid of that revolving door.

On another topic, a South Side resident said she is trying to get her neighbors interested in starting a block watch in the 14th St. area. She said people want to complain but not attend a block watch.

Another South Side resident said the rowdiness and damaging of property from outsiders who frequent the numerous local drinking establishments has gotten worse the last five years. He said the revelers ruin their property, and go home.

“There are no consequences anymore” he said of bad behavior by young people.

Yet another South Side resident said only Mondays and Tuesdays are quiet in the neighborhood.

Mr. Tokarski said his street formed a “block club.”

Each house was invited and food served. City speakers were brought in, such as from the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI).

Barbara Rudiak of the South Side Community Council said South Side is so large that section block watches are needed, and that can be more intimate.

Ms. Style suggested the 17th St. block watch could partner to form another block watch. Block watch members made the decision to stay small to focus on their specific problems, she said.

Next, a Mt. Washington resident said he wants cameras in Grandview Park in response to the vandalism, such as the graffiti in the playground.

He said he was told to talk to District Justice Richard King as the city has a policy disallowing cameras in public parks.

To a question about the difference between “robbery” and “theft from person,” a robbery involves some element of force; while an example of theft from person is leaving a purse on the bar and having someone take the wallet out. Or, someone enters an unlocked apartment and takes an item.

Questioned about how to stop thefts, Commander McNeilly said with many thefts, people are their own worst enemy because they are not observant of their surroundings.

“Theft is a crime of opportunity,” Officer Luffey said.


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