Limited police means prioritizing where officers are sent
Mayor acknowledges South Side siphons public safety resources
Jennifer Szweda Jordan
Mayor William Peduto addressed members of the Carrick Overbrook Block Watch last week about police staffing levels and priorities.
If Carrick-Overbrook residents create a list of what they think are the three most crime-ridden addresses, Mayor Bill Peduto said that could help him direct a limited police force to prioritize the problems.
"What you do is take the first few steps and...show a little bit more of a 'flying the flag,' and hopefully it will start to saturate over," Mayor Peduto said during a brief visit to the Carrick-Overbrook Block Watch meeting Monday, July 7.
"Mayor, we have 68 streets represented here tonight," Carol Anthony, the Block Watch facilitator, responded.
Ms. Anthony's comments echoed those of exasperated residents who told the mayor about frequent and widespread crime in the community's residential and business districts, including drug deals just outside a magistrate's office during daylight hours. They also said when police from Zone 3 are repeatedly pulled down to South Side to control the bar scene, less attention is paid to the Hilltop communities.
Mr. Peduto acknowledged the South Side revelry does siphon public safety resources away from other neighborhoods, saying dispatchers "get more calls on East Carson Street than we do in Homewood."
The mayor told residents he is dealing with crime across the city in part by bringing the police force back to what it was in 2004--some 900 officers. And Pittsburgh is also pursuing a federal grant for another 15. Plus, he said the city is putting a lot of time and care into hiring a police chief.
Mr. Peduto said the city is trying to change the structure and the culture of the police department so people know "there is a chief in charge who will treat everybody fairly."
One resident in the audience had another suggestion. The man reminded the mayor about how he asked the promoter of a recent country music concert to pay for the city's cleanup of massive amounts of trash fans left behind. He said the South Side bar owners should also be called on to pitch in for police services.
Mr. Peduto plans to return to Carrick for a Mayor's Night Out event Wednesday, July 30. Spokesman Tim McNulty said the exact location and time are yet to be determined but the events are usually held at 6 p.m.
Also speaking at the meeting was Allegheny County Adult Probation Officer Heather Bradford. She let people know about facts and figures and misconceptions of her work.
She said 19,000 sexual offenders are being supervised by about 125 probation officers. This number includes people who range from first-time offenders to those who are considered high-risk.
Here are some other facts about sexual offenders:
--There are 1,400 Megan's Law offenders in Allegheny County. There are no restrictions preventing these offenders from living near schools or, in some circumstances, with children.
--Not all sexual offenders supervised in special services have committed crimes against children--victims may include other groups.
--For more information, or to look up offenders in a neighborhood, go to pameganslaw.state.pa.us.
A third speaker at the meeting was police lieutenant Larry Scirotto. He addressed residents' statements that some police officers have been rude when responding to complaints. He encouraged residents to document similar incidents and report the details to him.
"I will never accept for a moment for an officer to be short-tempered," Lt. Scirotto said. "That is a big issue with me."
Lt. Scirotto said the force just began sending an officer on foot patrol twice a week along Brownsville Road from the 300 to the 2800 block.
He will be introducing the concept of virtual block watches at the next meeting.
Carrick resident and court reporting network evaluator Michael Anthony challenged Lt. Scirotto on the handling of DUI arrests. He asked why a man found passed out in a parked vehicle with a needle in his arm was not charged with driving under the influence.
Lt. Scirotto said such a case may not hold up in court if the accused was not actually driving.
Mr. Anthony, whose job as an evaluator has him working closely with DUI cases, said he's seen many cases of people charged with DUI for a variety of reasons, including the use of sleep medication. He respectfully disagreed with Lt. Scirotto's understanding of what DUI law permitted officers to do.
Lt. Scirotto asked Mr. Anthony to respect the police's application of the law.
The next block watch meeting, at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4, will be held at the summer location of Zion Christian Church, 2019 Brownsville Road.