South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Police don't want vigilantes in the fight against crime in neighborhoods


Last updated 3/24/2014 at 5:11pm

The Zone 3 Public Safety Council Meeting of March 19 began with discussion about the information listed on police reports distributed at these meetings.

The reports contain street names/blocks as it is unlawful to give specific addresses. Attendees and block watch members said they would like the specific areas pin-pointed.

“I want to get rid of the criminals,” a Mount Washington resident said.

Zone 3 Commander Catherine McNeilly said in the big picture of fighting crime, the police do not want residents becoming vigilantes. They just want the public’s help.

When it comes to drugs and guns, leave it to us, she said.

“You have to keep in mind your place in the big picture, and how we all fit together.

“We need you, but we have to protect you and protect ourselves from liability,” she said.

The commander said she knows how frustrating it is to community-minded people who want safe neighborhoods.

She explained she is trying to think of ways to convey more information within the boundaries of the law.

Liz Style, of the city’s public safety department, said to call 911 for suspicious behavior.

“We are not enforcers,” she said. Instead, our role is to work closely with police.

There are a good number of block watches, and good relationships formed with officers and commanders within the zones, she said.

A block watch captain said members call her with suspicions, which she turns over to crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey.

Block watch members are encouraged to write down the license numbers of cars engaging in suspicious activity, and record the time of day when most of the activities occur.

Commander McNeilly said residents may think when they give the police information nothing happens because they do not see instant results, but that is not true as it takes time.

If the police do not dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s before taking a case to the district attorney, it will not stick, she said.

Barbara Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said the recent public safety meeting conducted by the SSCC about forming a block watch was not well attended, but did prove informative.

Another meeting is planned for the spring.

She said residents talk to her about neighborhood concerns as she walks down the street. It would be great to get all those people together at a block watch to share information and ideas.

Regarding the March 15 St. Patrick’s Day celebration in South Side, attendees agreed management and crowd control was a big success.

The strategies included shuttle bus services, taxis, valet parking, pedicabs, toilet trailer, and more.

Ms. Rudiak said she saw a police presence early that day, with illegally parked cars towed at 1 p.m.

The only negative for her was her house was tagged with some graffiti that day, for which she filed a police report.

Ms. Style, a South Side resident, said she saw orderly behavior all afternoon for the celebration. House parties were crammed, but guests remained on the private property with no one in the streets.

Commander McNeilly said she wanted to credit the South Side Chamber of Commerce, the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association, and especially Pittsburgh police Lt. Bill Mathias.

She said he did a great job of coordinating and assigning, and he was responsible for the entire South Side event.

She also acknowledged the work of the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), which employs the approach of communication, cooperation, consensus, commitment, and collaboration among stakeholders.

Commander McNeilly said she has complained over the past two years the South Side bar situation was stealing resources from other Zone 3 neighborhoods, such as a police presence on weekends.

But with the St. Patrick’s Day celebration, the rest of Zone 3 was being managed, she said.

In announcements, Officer Luffey reported the annual “Biscuits Bingo,” a fundraiser for local animal organizations presented by the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, raised a record $21,225.

The March 8 family-friendly event attracted 420 bingo players.

A South Hills Renovation Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 5 at Church of the Resurrection, 1100 Creedmoor Ave. It will feature information on starting home renovation projects.

A 2014 Senior Fair, presented by state Rep. Erin Molchany, will be held from 4-7 p.m. on April 24 at St. Pamphilus Church, 1000 Tropical Ave.

There will be information about tax rebates, educational programs, prescription drug plans, volunteer opportunities, and more.

National Night Out will be on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

The next public safety meeting will be a city-wide meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on April 22 at 4701 Butler St., Lawrenceville.

Food will be served from 6:00-6:30 p.m. Mayor Peduto is scheduled to attend.


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