New police commander introduced to area residents
Larry Ross takes command of Zone 3 police district
“I'm not abandoning this community,” Police Commander RaShall Brackney told members of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council last week.
After a year in her South Side office the commander was recently transferred back to Zone 5. Ms. Brackney took the opportunity to introduce the man who would replace her at Zone 3, Commander Larry Ross.
Commander Brackney told the group gathered that Pittsburgh Chief of Police Nate Harper “was trying to do what's best for the whole city” in ordering the shuffling of supervisory personnel. She added that there will be continuity in programs she has established in the past year.
She told representatives from community groups at the meeting they should get a list of meeting dates and times to Officer Christine Luffey if they are interested in receiving monthly crime statistics or having an officer attend those meetings.
In going over the crime statistics, Commander Brackney said that they “broke even in terms of crime” and overall things are getting a “little bit better.”
According to the commander, burglaries were driving up the crime stats, particularly the stealing of copper. She said in the past, the theft of copper was generally limited to organized gangs. Now with the price of copper over three dollars a pound, freelance burglars are getting into the act.
Commander Brackney also warned those in attendance to be aware of their surroundings when using an ATM machine. She recommended shielding the keypad with one hand when punching in PIN numbers.
The commander also said there is an urban myth going around that if a user puts their PIN number in backwards, as an example using 4321 instead of 1234, it automatically sends a message to the police that the user needs help. She said that by putting in the PIN backwards the user only risks having their card confiscated by the machine, no signal is sent to the police.
“You may want more police officers, but the best officer is the one who peeks out their window after Regis Philbin,” Commander Brackney said, emphasizing the block watch adage that the residents are the eyes and ears of the police in the neighborhood.
Commander Ross, a Hilltop native, agreed there will be continuity in his command. “We may lose Commander Brackney, but we still have Officer Luffey.”
“Larry grew up in Knoxville,” Chief Harper told the group of the new commander who also walked a beat for two years beginning back in 1979. The chief said one of the things he would like to do is increase foot patrols and the use of bike officers in the neighborhoods.
“With your councilman's help we can get above 900 officers,” Chief Harper said. Noting that a new slots casino is slated for the North Side the chief of police said they'll need City Council's help to get more officers on the street.
Commander Ross later said that with the new casino it is expected that Part II Crimes, such as DUIs and prostitution, are expected to increase.
The new commander was questioned about parking problems, particularly on the South Side.
“We have to develop a zero tolerance for illegal parking,” Commander Ross answered. “But if they come to tag one,
they have to tag all illegally parked cars on the street.”
The police officers said that they would take a more intense look at the valet parking in South Side after several in attendance complained of bar and restaurant valets parking cars illegally on residential streets.
South Side residents at the meeting reminded the commander of the bad behavior of many of the revelers into the early morning hours in the neighborhood every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.
“If we think outside the box, we can really reign in some of this behavior that is unacceptable to society,” he answered. One tool he plans to use is increased DUI enforcement. Residents can expect to see more roving DUI checkpoints in the future as well as stationary checkpoints.
Commander Ross also wanted those in attendance to know had arrested a graffiti vandal, Marko, the night before in Carrick. He said the Graffiti Task Force was continuing to build a case against the vandal.