Zone 3 council recaps public safety initiatives in South neighborhoods
The March 20 Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting featured a packed room of local residents, Zone 3 officers, and city/zone officials.
The meeting began with Zone 3 community relations Officer Christine Luffey reporting that the 19th annual “Biscuits Bingo”, held on March 4 and presented by the Pittsburgh Police, was a “home run.”
The fundraiser for local animal organizations raised $35,421.
The event was held at the IBEW Hall Local #5, 5 Hot Metal St ., South Side. Officer Luffey said a bigger venue will be sought next year as people were turned away this year due to overcrowding.
Next, a Mt. Washington resident reported there are two drug houses on Bailey Ave. When he walks by the houses he finds syringes. He said he would provide details after the meeting to officers.
City Councilman Bruce Kraus said there was a great police, fire, EMS, and building inspection presence at the St. Patrick’s post-parade day celebration on South Side. There were eight arrests and 70 citations, which are good numbers for a larger crowd than usual.
To a question of who cleans up after the horses during the celebration, Mr. Kraus said that has be taken into account as there is discussion about bringing county horses back.
To a question about policing the nightlife, he said Mayor Bill Peduto wants to propose creation of a seventh police zone, headquartered Downtown, that covers the South Side, North Shore/casino area, Strip District, Cultural District, and more.
Then, on weekends, officers would not be leaving Zone 3 for South Side but would be staying in the Hilltop neighborhoods.
Mr. Kraus said he supports that as it allows for more effective policing.
It is also reflective of the food/beverage industry being the strongest growing economy in the U.S. for the past 10 years, he said.
To a question of whether the city is hiring more police officers, he said there are 860 now, with more in the Police Academy. The mayor is aiming for 950 to help staff the new zone.
Mr. Kraus also said he is very impressed with the new, young officers.
To a question about the retention rate, he said after the Academy they can leave any time. “We can do better,” he said about retaining officers.
Next, Officer Nathan Auvil said he enjoys working with all of the meeting attendees and residents, and to let him know if there are problems.
An attendee said she and Officer Auvil toured the Bhutanese settlement community across from the Carrick Shopping Center after receiving a phone call for assistance by Bhutanese community members. Seventy-five percent of the building’s residents are resettled refugees.
She said the presence of Officer Auvil caused loitering by non-residents to drop.
Another attendee said she met with many Bhutanese, many of whom are not English-speaking. It gave her a greater appreciation of how difficult it must be for them to communicate.
On another topic, a resident said he is putting together block watch Facebook pages for Knoxville, Allentown, and other Hilltop neighborhoods in a fashion to appeal to youngsters. He has also been successful in getting residents to start block watches in those areas.
He said when the weather gets hot, and ages 8 to 16 are hanging out on street corners in groups, they are looking for trouble.
He said if a community has a block watch, and a nearby community does not, the crime will gravitate to the community without a block watch.
He also suggested having block watch block parties in the summer for all block watches.
“Somehow we lost a sense of community,” he said.
Office Auvil said there was vandalizing by juveniles of the recently renovated Knoxville branch of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on Brownsville Rd. About eight volunteers from the MAD DADS organization came and hung out on the corner with the goal of providing mentorship.
The group is comprised of community fathers whose mission is to maintain safer communities while impacting the issues of drugs, gangs, and violence.
An attendee commented that statistics show if someone leaves their home to pick up litter outdoors, neighbors who observe them will do the same thing.
“It’s not just crime fighting, it’s everything else,” an attendee said about what block watches do.
Referring to the suggestion for a block watch block party, she said National Night Out is “like a big party for block watches.” The annual event will be held on Aug. 1 this year.
On a related note, an attendee said Safer Together Pittsburgh, a community partnership program, also aims to organize all block watches, with the names of their leaders in a database for quick referral. Leaders would receive crime updates and information.
“It’s not a crime watch – it’s a family of block watches getting together.
“We’re trying to educate people that it’s not just crime, but it’s a family thing and being together,” she said.
A Mt. Washington resident said 90 percent of his street are college students, and the rest are seniors. He said he talked to the students about getting involved in their neighborhood, but to no avail.
Zone 3 public safety council President Ken Wolfe said if the community is successful getting something into court, residents must show up for the proceedings as the judge will then pay attention. Residents may even testify.
To the suggestion of creating a listing for all of the Zone 3 block watches, he said it is being worked on.
He also said he is working on a grant with the Hilltop Alliance for cameras on the Hilltop.
While red tape is involved, “I am fairly certain we can get something out of it,” he said.
The zone’s acting commander, Lori McCartney, said there is a heroin epidemic in the zone, with 84 non-fatal overdoses and 13 fatal overdoses since January.
As there have only been two homicides since January, heroin is a bigger danger, she said.
The next Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the zone station on April 17. On April 19 at 6 p.m ., a city-wide public safety council meeting will be held at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, 5738 Forbes Ave ., Squirrel Hill.