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Gun legislation topic at Zone 3 meeting


Discussion at the Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting on July 17 centered on proposed gun legislation and the South Side saturation pilot program.

The meeting began with the reminder August 6 is National Night Out.

Crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey asked attendees to let her know of Night Out activities planned for their respective communities so she can compile a list for Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly.

In other news, attendees complained about a Wyoming St. man who is feeding stray cats. Two kittens he recently fed by throwing food on the street were run over by cars.

While he may think he is being kind to animals, the food draws raccoons and rodents.

Officer Luffey said she can issue a citation for littering because he throws the food out his car window.

Attendees also reported the garden at the corner of Grandview Ave. and Shiloh St. in the main Mount Washington business district was vandalized: plants were ripped apart and stepping stones smashed. The vandalism occurred July 14-15.

The gardening project was funded by a $1,000 grant plus volunteer time and labor.

Anyone with information on the vandals should call the Zone 3 station.

Also regarding Mount Washington, quads and dirt bikes in Grandview Park are a problem. The riders are in their mid-20s.

Officer Luffey said she and Commander McNeilly will be attending a meeting on August 2 at the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation (MWCDC) to discuss the various local issues.

Regarding the gun legislation, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said he and other public officials, and a representative of CeaseFirePA, traveled to Harrisburg a month ago about proposed legislation regarding responsible gun ownership.

CeaseFirePA is working in communities state-wide to build support for reforms to reduce gun violence.

Mr. Kraus said he and the others wanted to show their support for three pieces of proposed legislation:

• House Bill 1010: removes the exemption from the current background checks bill of long guns such as assault rifles and shotguns;

• House Bill 1479: prohibits large capacity magazines; it would force someone on a killing spree to reload more often, giving their potential victims time to act;

• House Bill 1515: requires gun owners to report when their guns are lost or stolen. City council passed similar legislation in 2009. Mayoral candidate Bill Peduto said during his campaign he would enforce the law.

Mr. Kraus said the lost-or-stolen legislation is a challenge on the state level. With the governor’s race coming up, he would like to see lost-or-stolen guns as part of the campaign.

Mr. Kraus said proposed legislation he is opposed to are House Bill 805 and Senate Bill 876

which give broad standing to any membership organization which feels harmed by municipal gun legislation.

Those municipalities would be responsible for all suit costs, and up to triple damages upon losing in court.

“It is an attempt to bully municipalities to stay away from legislation or be punished,” he said.

He has met with state Reps. Harry Readshaw and Adam Ravenstahl, and would be meeting with Rep. Dom Costa in a few days about the gun legislation.

He said the strategy is to know which officials favor gun controls, and those for whom there is no hope of changing their minds.

“Our focus is on the middle--those who showed interest and could be persuaded,” he said.

Mr. Kraus said all active bills have been introduced, but are not out of committee. The hard part is getting them out of the committee and voted on, he said.

Regarding the South Side saturation pilot program, its two main objectives are: to bring the Flats some normalcy; and to free up officers for the Hilltop communities on Friday and Saturday evenings so there is equity in how the zone is patrolled.

Mr. Kraus said the program is an outcome of the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), which promotes cooperation among hospitality, safety, and community development groups.

The city hired the RHI help develop a plan to deal with the effects of the South Side bar saturation.

Under the new system, off-duty officers who used to work as security officers at South Side bars are teamed with on-duty officers to patrol East Carson St. and its parallel areas.

The South Side Bar and Restaurant Association is providing much of the funding.

Mr. Kraus said it took a year to convince people of the importance of public space, and the need to restore a sense of law and order there.

The bar owners understand this today, he said, and that, therefore, their money was better spent on officers under supervision by sergeants and a lieutenant.

“The situation feels at the threshold of genuine change,” he said.

That change will require a management plan and a business development plan, he said.

“We have to change the structure of how night life happens in Pittsburgh,” he said.

A Chicago sergeant he spoke with said officers are not allowed to be employed at liquor-licensed establishments.

For the city’s 1000 alcohol establishments over five entertainment areas, only 35 officers are utilized.

“So it’s not numbers, it’s strategies,” he said.

There will be no Public Safety Council meeting in August.


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