South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Zone 3 Public Safety Council updated in Bon Air this month


The Bon Air Elementary School was the venue for the June 15 Zone 3 Public Safety Council monthly meeting.

The guest speakers were Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly and crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey.

Ken Wolfe, public safety council president, said the community safety website, htm, provides community messages and the latest police alerts. While residents have to sign up to receive alerts, tips can be submitted without signing up.

In her remarks, Officer Luffey said the second worst property she was ever in was a house on Hazeldell St. in Carrick on June 10.

Police were alerted to the home's shockingly bad conditions by neighbors, who were repulsed by the terrible odors emanating from the house.

"Without neighbors' help we would not have known about it," she said. Fleas, flies, and roaches pervaded the house, which was home to a mother and two special needs' dependents.

"The house was beyond deplorable," said Officer Luffey.

More than 40 cats have been discovered there, so far. One cat died that day as a result of negligence, which is a misdemeanor. The house is now condemned.

The Resolve crisis network, a partnership between the county and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, intervened, and the mother is now in a Resolve clinic.

"We're on our way to making things better for that family, the animals, and the community," she said. "I thank God that the neighbors reported this."

On another case, she said a Mount Washington resident contacted her about dog owners letting their pets run free from 5 to 6 p.m. in Olympia Park. The caller said he saw a dog chasing children, and a dog trying to attack another dog.

"We cannot allow that," said Officer Luffey. The city has a leash law.

To an attendee's question about a recent shooting in Grandview Park, Commander McNeilly said an arrest was made.

To a comment about a crime that was not included in the crime statistics distributed at these meetings, Commander McNeilly said the information is simply "raw data" with "room for error." By the time the data is cleared up, it could be a month or more, at which time it becomes "old news" to residents.

That is why it is distributed in its raw form at meetings, she said.

Another resident said at a recent community meeting he attended, the city's director of public safety, Michael Huss, downplayed the staffing level issues and other concerns raised by police, assuring the public everything "was okay."

"I just want the truth," said the resident.

In her response, Commander McNeilly said Assistant Chief Maurita Bryant, who is a long-time officer and very familiar with the area, visited her last week.

They discussed that while many off-duty police officers work in the South Side Flats on weekend evenings, the problem is what to do with those who are arrested.

"Who will haul them? Who will take them to jail? If there is a fight, we have to back them up," said Commander McNeilly. "But if you look at the Zone 3 map, we are drained."

Zone 3 gets most of the calls, and makes the most arrests, she said.

She and city Councilman Bruce Kraus would like to open a mini-jail in the South Side.

"Chief Bryant understands," she said of the Zone 3 challenges.

"We can back up what we're saying," she said in relation to the resident's wanting "the truth."

An Overbrook resident next commented on the proposed reopening of the Butta Bing strip club on Route 51. She said it will be a "huge problem" for police should it reopen.

At a June 9 Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing, she and others who oppose the business were told by the board to sit down and be friendly neighbors, she said. The hearing was continued until July 21.

The resident is looking for a pro bono attorney to assist in the opposition effort.

She is also trying to set up a meeting with the club's owners through the office of Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak.

Mr. Wolfe said because this was a public safety meeting, there was nothing he could do about zoning, but he would help out, if requested.

Next, Officer Luffey told a story about a psychologist she once knew who was, years later, reported to be jamming parking meters. When the officer asked her what led to her decline, she said she had been hit by a car.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, she was reported to be defecating outdoors on Grandview Ave. She lives in a condominium there.

"We can't have people doing their business in public," said Officer Luffey.


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