June 24, 2014 | Vol. 74 No. 49

Zone 3 Public Safety Council has a senior focus at new venue

Reflecting its venue of the South Hills Retirement Residence, the June 18 Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting focused largely on seniors.

It began with public safety council president Ken Wolfe announcing monthly public safety meetings would be held there for the foreseeable future to give residents a chance to attend.

He explained the codes in the monthly zone crime statistics that were distributed, and only the most egregious crimes are listed. Drunk driving arrests, for instance, are omitted.

A high frequency crime in the zone is theft from auto. To avoid becoming a victim, no valuable personal property should be left in a parked car.

If a thief sees something he wants, he will try the door handle. If it is something he really wants, he will break a car window to get it.

Thefts from vehicles is the most frequently occurring crime in South Side, he said. Rather than the theft of car radios as in years past, it is computers and laptops that are stolen.

Next, crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey said she is doing outreach to seniors this summer, with the latest being at the Market House in South Side.

“You’re not forgotten. We are here for you,” she told the largely senior attendees.

Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly was also present.

At 10 a.m. on July 11, Officer Luffey will come to the residence to talk about how to be safe. She told attendees when they get a phone call from someone who wants personal information or is trying to sell something, hang up.

“You should never give personal information over the phone,” she said.

To report a crime, call 911. She said if residents don’t call, the department does not know a crime has occurred, and therefore cannot help.

An attendee said ever since she was mugged years ago, she takes note of a person’s clothes and shoes whenever she encounters someone new.

“You formed a very good habit,” Officer Luffey said.

To a question of whether there is a specific number to call if they feel someone hacked into their computer, she said if they feel they are a victim of a crime, call 911.

That way, an officer will come by and determine if a crime has occurred, and how the police can help, she said.

If they feel money has been taken from their bank account without their knowledge or permission, the bank and police will help them. Officer Luffey said the most prevalent crimes against seniors are financial crimes.

An attendee said she and another woman were walking to the grocery store the previous afternoon when a man stopped them and said he found a $20 bill, and wondered if they had lost it.

They said he could keep it, and hurried past him.

Officer Luffey said he might have been waiting for them to open their purses, and he could grab their wallets and take off.

Crime can happen at any time or place if the opportunity arises. Most burglaries occur in daylight when people are at work, she said.

An attendee said she called 911 once about children playing in the retirement home’s parking lot, for which signs are posted stating trespassing is not permitted. The 911 dispatcher told her she could not call as she is not the owner of the property.

Officer Luffey apologized for the response, and said she can call as she resides there.

Mr. Wolfe said if she gets a response like that again, she should write down the date and time of day the call was made. She should also ask for the operator’s name, and give all the information to him, Officer Luffey, or Commander McNeilly.

“It is your right to call,” he said.

Next, Liz Style, of the city’s the Dept. of Public Safety, said she and colleagues are putting together a collaborative strategy for community safety called SaferTogether Pittsburgh.

She also reported community forums to solicit public input in the search for the city’s next police chief will be held during public safety meetings in the city police zones, beginning June 26.

The Zone 3 forum will take place at a site to be determined. All residents are invited to participate.

Mayor Bill Peduto and acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar, and other staff members, will be present.

The process began with the posting of the job description on the Talent City website.

The structure of the forums will be small tables at which residents will discuss what they want in a chief. There will be a moderator, and staff members to answer questions.

The information residents provide will be relayed to the search committee, which will eventually develop a list of police chief candidates for consideration by Mr. Peduto and Mr. Bucar.

The last speaker was Shannon Williams, of CeaseFire Western Pennsylvania, dedicated to reducing and preventing gun violence.

CeaseFirePA is working in communities state-wide to build support for reforms to reduce gun violence.

Ms. Williams said most guns used in crimes are not legally possessed, but were either lost, stolen, or the result of “straw purchasing” in which people who pass criminal background checks buy guns for criminals who are legally prohibited from possessing them. CeaseFirePA wants to keep illegal firearms off the streets.

A new program is a court watch program in which members attend sentencing hearings for gun crimes to testify and speak with the judge on the impact of guns in the affected communities.

Mr. Wolfe concluded the meeting with “homework” for attendees: decide what kind of information they would like from the council, and let him know at the September meeting at the residence.

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