South Pittsburgh leads city in fatal drug overdoses
The impact of ongoing opiate abuse and drug-related crimes on Carrick and other South Pittsburgh neighborhoods was addressed at this month’s Carrick / Overbrook Crime Watch meeting last Monday in the Concord K5 auditorium.
The Zone 3 monthly crime report listed 10 overdoses in Carrick, four in Overbrook, and several drug-related arrests all between March 6 and April 3. Zone 3 officer Christine Luffey discussed several incidents in detail.
According to Officer Luffey, dispatch responded to an overdose report on March 8 at 2 p.m. on Plummet Way. Police broke the window of a parked vehicle in order to administer treatment to an unconscious individual. Heroin and needles were found at the scene and the suspect will be charged through summons.
“The [overdoses] are incredibly high,” Officer Luffey said. “It’s not just our city but our whole country. It’s an epidemic.”
Undercover narcotics detectives arranged a controlled buy with man suspected of selling heroin. Detectives met the individual on March 16 on Merritt Avenue and arrested him at the scene. The suspect told police he was selling a very strong type of heroin.
Police were investigating a home on Spencer Avenue after several complaints of open air drug sales. They observed a male exit the home and enter a vehicle. Police stopped the vehicle on Hopeland Street after the driver failed to use a turn signal.
Officers discovered drugs, antique coins, and a large amount of cash in the vehicle. The suspect was arrested at the scene.
A resident asked for an update on last month’s fatal stabbing on Brownsville Road. Officer Luffey said the incident is still under investigation.
Zone 3 commander Karen Dixon announced the zone is currently staffed with 95 officers, and she is hoping to get more as the zone continues to be the “busiest in the city.”
She also said Zone 3 is leading the city with 18 fatal drug overdoses in 2017, and the majority of those deaths have occurred in Carrick.
“This is unbelievable,” Commander Dixon said. “We are seeing [overdose] ages ranging from 19 to 65. It’s not just people driving into your neighborhood. It’s your neighbors.”
A resident asked if there have been any efforts to target drug dealers based on the markings or “stamps” on the heroin bags. Commander Dixon said drug dealers have started to change the markings on the heroin bags to prevent them from being traced.
In an effort to stop repetitive overdoses, councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said her office is coordinating with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services on a project that would dispatch “recovery support specialists” to the scene of overdoses to provide social support guidance. The program could start as early as this summer.
“As you heard, our officers are tired of seeing the same people come back and overdose two or three times,” Councilwoman Rudiak said.
The councilwoman also announced she is partnering with the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy to establish the South Pittsburgh Opiate Action Coalition.
The new program would tackle projects such as developing common responses to integrating addiction education into schools, teaching employers how to talk about addiction, and lobbying for bills at a state level.
“We’re looking for community members, faith leaders, business owners, and other members of the community to work together to solve this problem.” Councilwoman Rudiak said.
Transitioning away from addiction issues, the councilwoman also announced she is working on phase two of the Dairy District development and is speaking with a developer looking to purchase two buildings in the Dairy District and open a manufacturing and retail operation.
The developer is hoping the operation can open for business in August.
Last Monday’s meeting also included a presentation from Tarra Provident of the Homeless Cat Management Team, a local organization looking to end overpopulation of companion animals by providing sterilization and vaccination services.
According to Ms. Provident, feral cats are an issue throughout the city and a result of residents who abandon or fail to sterilize their pets.
“We are the reason they’re here,” Ms. Provident said. “People are letting their cats out not fixed, people are dumping cats left and right. They move and they throw them outside.”
The Homeless Cat Management Teams finds feral cats and attempts to reconnect them with their owner, either by checking for a chip or missing animal posts on Facebook. If an owner isn’t found, the team provides sterilization and vaccination services and offers them to a network of shelters for adoption.
“It’s proven science that if we vaccinate and fix them, we can keep the population under control.” Ms. Provident said.
Ms. Provident also mentioned that every city address is eligible to have up to five pets spayed or neutered for free. Applications for the city’s program are available at pittsburghpa.gov/animalcontrol.
For more information about the Homeless Cat Management Team, visit http://www.homelesscat.org.
The next Carrick / Overbrook Crime Watch meeting will be Monday, May 6 in the Concord K5 auditorium. Next month’s meeting will also be centered around the area’s opiate abuse issues.