South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Communities Against Crime block watch topic


A call for residents to attend the "Communities Against Crime" event of July 25 was one of the topics at the July 9 meeting of the Carrick/Overbrook block watch.

The gathering is designed to show community support in the face of drug dealing and other crimes that impact the neighborhood's quality of life. The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in the area between Churchview and Owendale avenues in the 2600-2900 blocks of Brownsville Rd.

Block watchers, businessmen, and residents from Carrick, Brentwood, and Overbrook are invited to set up a table and sell their wares, or else hand out information.

"The more people out on the street that night the better we will be," said Carol Anthony, who conducted the meeting.

She and Michael Payne, a block watch steering committee member, went door-to-door in the business area to show a presence and inform them of the July 25 event.

"Even the businesses that we know are problems want to be involved," Ms. Anthony said.

The district attorney will be sending food, the Liquor Control Board will send information, and police will be involved, especially those from Zone 3.

"Please come out and support it.

"Let's show we care," crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey said.

The meeting began with news of the Aug. 7 National Night Out, beginning at 7 p.m., that is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness; generate support for local anti-crime programs; and strength neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships.

It was begun in 1984 by the National Association of Town Watch.

Anyone organizing a Night Out in their neighborhood should contact the city to register the event. More information is available on the city website.

Besides the traditional display of porch lights and front porch gatherings, other suggested activities include: contests with prizes for children; block parties; legal fireworks; dessert night in which all residents on the block bring a treat; and more.

Officer Luffey said this will be her 20th National Night Out since she became an officer. Bon Air and Beechview have Night Out events planned.

She asked anyone planning a Night Out in their neighborhood to call her at Zone 3 as she, Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly, and Liz Style of the Mayor's Office would like to stop by.

Officer Luffey said she attended three last year in Zone 3.

In other business, she reminded attendees that animals need plenty of water and shelter from the sun in extreme summer temperatures. She said she seized more animals for heat emergencies recently than ever before in a one week span.

In Larimer, she secured a search warrant to rescue four puppies in the sun without water. Thanks to a tip, she found others in an abandoned house, raising the Larimer total to nine.

The summary offense for cruelty is a fine from $50 to $750 and/or 90 days in the county jail.

She said to call her at Zone 3 if inhumane treatment is observed.

"It's cruel and inhumane to leave a dog out in extreme temperatures without water or shelter," she said.

Next, residents commented on the increased police presence in the neighborhood, and how appreciative they are of seeing the officers.

An attendee said a man told her the word is out neighbors on her street will not tolerate crime or other negative influences that lower their quality of life.

She said she loves seeing the police drive by. It is all part of an initiative begun last year called quality-of-life patrols.

Neighborhood community groups, such as block watches, are asked to choose three troublesome areas in their neighborhoods, and submit that information to Zone 3. Police will address all the problems in the designated areas with foot patrols, surveillance, arrests, and undercover work.

Next, when asked what happens to rescued dogs, Officer Luffey said they are given a bath, which they all seem to love, and a medical exam.

In February, she saved 17 dogs in collaboration with the Humane Society in a dog fighting case she investigated, and which led to a search warrant at a Wilkinsburg home.

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

"That is truly evil," she said.

To a question about "lazy landlords" on an attendee's street who do not cut grass or clear sidewalks, Officer Luffey said to call 311 explaining a code enforcement officer is needed for those type of problems.

She said she lives in Beechview and frequently calls 311 for non-emergency services.

A city employee in attendance said building inspectors get orders for the day from 311, making that service the best place to call.

Calls to 311 also help with compiling a file of complaints against a property, like police calls, high grass, problem tenants, etc.

An attendee said she calls building inspection every day about two boarded-up houses on her street. A department employee she spoke with said she can only send out a citation if the situation persists. Once the landlord takes care of the problem the process halts.

Another attendee who owns property in Mt. Oliver said the borough requires him to maintain it on a year-round basis or else a lien could be placed against the property. But the city does not do the same, to residents' detriment.

An attendee said a bill is needed to protect residents like renters are protected.

The next Carrick/Overbrook Block Watch meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Sept. 10 at a site to be determined. There is no August meeting.


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