South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Operation Sweep begins to make a dent in late night crime on South Side

 


Mayor Luke Ravenstahl visited the South Side Market House armed with statistics and promises that things are getting better for South Side residents in their war with unruly and disrespectful bar patrons.

Mr. Ravenstahl noted the work of the Mayor's Advisory Committee for the South Side (MACSS), a group consisting of representatives from community organizations and city officials. The MACSS charge was to make recommendations on how to alleviate some of the problems associated with the bad behavior of bars and their customers.

Among the suggestions made by the advisory committee were: increases in enforcement from the police, Bureau of Building Inspection and the PA Liquor Control Board.

"We won't suggest the problem is over," Mayor Ravenstahl said. "We've made significant strides."

The mayor authorized utilizing police overtime for "saturation patrols" over the last 10 weeks, primarily on the side streets of the South Side Flats. The patrols resulted in a significant increase in citations issued in the community.

Mr. Ravenstahl noted that "Operation Sweep," the saturation patrols on weekends between midnight and 4 a.m., resulted in 47 "physical" arrests, 15 of which were for DUIs; 645 non-traffic citation, including 333 for public urination; and, 330 traffic citations. Those numbers were in addition to Zone 3 officers also writing 79 citations for public urination, 41 for open containers and 18 citations for underage drinking in the same time period.

Liquor Control Enforcement officers also cited 39 South Side bars for 44 violations during that time.

The mayor promised to continue to "put this in place" and was going to attempt to extend the saturation patrols to the Strip District to control problem bars and patrons in that neighborhood.

The MACSS has also suggested the mayor meet with area universities to address the conduct of their students in the community. Duquesne University already has a program in place to hold its students accountable for their actions, on and off campus.

Speaking before the crowd of residents, seniors and news media gathered at the Market House, Tim Lewis, director of commuter affairs for Duquesne, said that "we do run into problems on the South Side" with their students. He said they have been able to streamline the process for addressing those complaints.

If a problem with a student requires it, the student can be brought into the judicial affairs process with the university. The university may take further action including warnings, suspensions or in more severe cases, expulsion.

Mr. Lewis said the university is in the process of putting together a packet for new students living in the South Side. Included in the packet will be information on how to be a good neighbor, how to stay safe on the South Side and how to become more involved as a volunteer on the South Side.

Area residents having problems with Duquesne students can contact the South Side Community Council, the council will then contact Duquesne with the complaints.

"Operation Sweep has made a difference," Hugh Brannan, chair of the South Side Planning Forum and a member of the MACSS added at the news conference. "We all agree this problem will take time. We have to tackle it on all levels."

In addition to the saturation patrols, the MACSS has asked the city to look into excessive noise and bars hosting live entertainment without permits, illegal valet parking operations, citing bars exceeding their posted occupancy levels and the increasing number of sidewalk encroachments.

City officials recently changed the rules governing valet parking, requiring signed leases showing specific parking spaces for the valet-parked vehicles. They have also begun looking into the legality of the "sidewalk" cafes springing up on the Flats and that the bars hosting entertainment have the proper permits.

Police Chief Nate Harper said the increased enforcement on the South Side is a "continuing process" and promised that it "doesn't end here." He noted the collaboration between the city police, fire and public works departments along with Liquor Control Enforcement officers of the State Police.

Mayor Ravenstahl pointed out that many of the bar owners feel they have been "targeted" for the actions of their patrons. He added that they also carry some responsibility in keeping the South Side a safe, viable neighborhood.

"We're not holding (the bars) to a higher standard than any other community," he said promising to enforce the laws currently on the books.

There will be a public hearing in City Council Chambers, 5th Floor of the City-County Building, on Wednesday, July 11, 1:30 p.m. concerning the proposed legislation to limit the number of bars according to density in the commercial district of the South Side.

The South Side Community Council is providing bus transportation to and from the hearing for senior citizens. The bus will pick up seniors in front of Carson Towers at 12:30 p.m. and Market House at 12:45 p.m.  After the hearing, the bus will return seniors to those locations.  Seating is limited, those interested should call Michele at 412-488-1464 as soon as possible to reserve a seat on the bus.

 

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