South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Block watch group expresses concerns to police officials


April 10, 2012

Narcotics and Vice Commander Cheryl Doubt, and crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey, were the guest speakers at the April 2 meeting of the Carrick/Overbrook block watch, which drew about 55 attendees.

Commander Doubt said the various units under her command include the narcotics investigative unit, narcotics impact unit, and the Weed and Seed unit. The vice unit deals with gambling, prostitution and nuisance bar violations along with tracking firearms.

When she asked for questions from the audience, a 20-year Carrick resident said she "never felt threatened as I do now," referring to a neighboring home.

The family, which is comprised of a mother, her three teenagers and other multiple residents, engage in dirt bike racing on the street, loud arguments, and threats to the attendee.

She said the family's pit bull runs through her yard, and there are drug addicts at the home at all hours. The resident said she calls 311, the city's phone number for non-emergency services and 911 frequently.

She called the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) about the family not having a permit for backyard construction, but BBI has not come out. The attendee said she sleeps three hours a night on her couch in fear of the home's mother and her visitors.

"I don't have a solution," said Commander Doubt. "We can only do what we can do with the assistance of you all."

City councilman Bruce Kraus said his late father, who once lived in the community, would be quite upset about the downhill slide of the neighborhood.

"There has to be better answers.

"We have to become more powerful than the realtors lobby," he said.

Mr. Kraus cited drugs as fueling the robberies, assaults, and other problems.

"We are always reactive. Maybe we need state or federal agencies to come in and sweep it all out of here," he said.

He asked Commander Doubt why nothing can be done to help the attendee who lives in fear of her neighbor.

"There is a problem all over the city in neighborhoods," she said.

When the police make arrests, the suspects are often out of jail that same evening, which is out of their hands.

"We are doing our best," she said.

The commander said she would give the attendee a form to complete.

For dirt bike racing, she should call 911, and tell the dispatcher the family has a police scanner. That way the dispatcher will call the station directly.

If the dispatcher does not cooperate, ask to speak with their supervisor.

To a question of how residents can aid police, she said to take note of what they witness, like a license plate number.

Another attendee asked if police officers will tell those being investigated who called, if the caller chooses to remain anonymous? Commander Doubt said that would not happen and no one will come to the complainant's house seeking additional information.

Liz Style, of the Mayor's Office, asked callers leave as much detail on the recording as possible.

Anyone witnessing drug dealing occurring at the same time and place every day, should leave that information so an officer can be there the next time.

"The more paper trail, the better it is," she said.

Questioned whether a person can go to the magistrate about a problem neighbor, Mr. Kraus said it is to everyone's benefit if the problem neighbor is a Section 8 renter as there is a system in place for such matters. Call his office, or the office of Natalia Rudiak, for assistance.

To a question about closing nuisance bars, Commander Doubt said the police have to document everything, and build a strong case, which can take a long time.

Asked why it takes so long to evict troublesome renters, she said notice must be served to landlords, and if they are absentee landlords, it often takes time to locate those owners.

Carol Anthony, who conducted the meeting, said "you have to organize your own block." The newest block watches are on Spokane and Westmont avenues.

Ms. Anthony asked people to let her know the streets and captains of any new groups so she can stay in touch with them.

In her presentation, Officer Luffey said she listened intently to attendees' prior comments.

"We have our own issues as well," she said of living in Beechview.

When one's life is being infringed upon, the worst thing to do is nothing, she said.

Instead, call 311 or 911. Callers may remain anonymous; she never tells the subject of the complaint the name of the person who filed the complaint.

"If we don't stand up for our neighborhood, we lose," she said.

Mr. Kraus called the "city budget" the evening's theme and, with the city coming out of Act 47, there might be more money for resources like additional officers, lighting in the parks, and more.

Today, there are 950 officers, as opposed to 1100 in 1993.

Officer Luffey said "We're not doing this job to be rich," but rather she is dedicated to making a difference.

As an example she cited a recent dog fighting case she investigated which led to a search warrant at a Wilkinsburg home.

She learned that since 1983, the suspect has been electrocuting new dogs if he did not like the way they fought.

At meeting's end, a representative from Ms. Rudiak's office said the councilwoman met with Brentwood officials to discuss various issues, including the troublesome 2600 block of Brownsville Rd., the site of open drug dealing and other problems.

The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. on May 7 in the Pittsburgh Concord K-5 auditorium.


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