South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Jennifer Szweda Jordan
Contributing Writer 

Commander assures block watch help is on the way for Zone 3


Last updated 4/13/2015 at 5:34pm

A big auto heist, a man hiding 36 bags of heroin in the crotch of his pants, and a rise in copper stolen from abandoned buildings. These were among the crimes police described in Carrick and Overbrook at the communities’ block watch meeting on April 5.

Yet, Zone 3 Commander Larry Scirotto tried to reassure residents help is on the way, with an influx of new officers.

In her report, Officer Christine Luffey said Pittsburgh Auto Depot reported 13 vehicles were stolen from the 2306 Saw Mill Run Boulevard lot on March 18.

“Someone said they wanted to purchase wholesale cars,” Officer Luffey said. “They wrote bad checks and stole keys at the same time.”

The reports of copper theft extend back over a few months. The value of this precious metal is up and the community has a number of abandoned homes and buildings that used the material. Thieves can sell copper tubing for up to $2.20 a pound, according to current national averages.

Copper is important as a conductor in the expanding electric/cable/technical industry. Commander Scirotto said the police have a suspect in these cases and asked residents to call 911 if they see someone entering an abandoned location and removing scrap metal.

In other reports, several people from outside the community were charged with selling drugs in and around Carrick and Overbrook.

Officer Luffey said in one case, police saw a man with a “bigger than normal bulge” in the crotch of his pants. Upon investigation, they found the bulge was 36 bags of heroin. The man they arrested was from Munhall.

In a separate incident, on March 31, plain clothes detectives who saw a drug deal approached the seller, who told them, “I don’t have time for you, I’ve got to go to work.”

Officer Luffey said the police told the woman, “You’re going to be very late.” That suspect was from Cranberry.

In other arrest reports, a man was shot in the leg on April 5, Easter Sunday, on Westmont Avenue.

And in another incident, Officer Luffey said she rescued a puppy after being called to the scene of a report of animal abuse. The pit bull appeared to have been beaten – it was suffering from hypothermia and a broken tail.

It was seized from a couple who Officer Luffey said was well-known to the block watch crowd for other arrests: Kamal Omar Floyd.

Despite the reports, Commander Larry Scirotto tried to reassure the audience, saying the area will be getting a larger number of officers from the city’s latest graduating police class than in recent years.

 “We’re getting the resources we need,” he said.

He attributed that assignment to the “vocal efforts” of the residents communicating their needs to political leaders.

However, the residents were equally vocal at the meeting with complaints about police behavior.

Several residents said some police react rudely to people who report crimes, inadequately communicate information about investigations and have neglected certain streets.

“The joke is, your house can be shot up and the police don’t care,” said a resident of Dellrose Street.

“We can only care as much as you care,” Commander Scirotto said, as the audience encouraged the Dellrose resident to rally neighbors to participate in the block watch. “You’re here, you care. So we will help you.”

One woman asked about the status of community policing in the zone—the concept of intentionally improving relations between police and residents. Commander Scirotto said all officers in the police academy are receiving special training in community policing, but current officers do not have the same type of training.

One man from the Bhutanese refugee community asked a question that was unclear to Commander Scirotto and the audience, due to the language barrier. The commander pointed out 911 dispatchers can be connected to translators for non-native speakers. The zone also has a Nepali-speaking officer who works night shifts.


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