South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Anthony Mendicino
Point Park News Service 

City safety blitz gets underway in Carrick


Final plans for the Carrick Crime Blitz were outlined last Tuesday night, targeting 42 properties for possible condemnation or seizure as local citizens and law enforcement say have been at the center of crime in the community.

Representatives from the Mayor’s Office as well as local law enforcement met with Carrick residents and block watch members to share their final plans for the blitz and pegged Thursday, Sept. 10 as its start date. The six-week program will use resources from both the local community and city to clean up properties that have been linked to crime or become an eyesore to local residents.

“Just look out the window, it’s a problem,” said Gordon W. Sullivan of the Spencer Avenue block watch. “The main thing is just getting involved, just call the police. It’s that easy.”

Crime has been an issue in the community for several years, but the cancelation of the St. Basil Parish Festival in late July pushed locals over the edge. The festival was promptly cancelled after police were called to respond to fights and overcrowding.

No arrests were made, but the incident was enough to spur action.

Many local residents became fed up with the crime and propositioned the City of Pittsburgh to do something about it; the city’s response was a public safety blitz encompassing all of the city’s departments.

With help from community leaders and block watch members, residents identified and reported abandoned or run down properties that have been the center of crime in the area.

“The first step was collecting data, which we did so by gathering as much community input as possible,” said Lex Janes, Office of Community Affairs Deputy Manager.

“Even up to last week we were still collecting information,” Mr. Janes said.

That information was given to the Department of Innovation and Performance. The department then began to “compile a large database and analyzed that data to sort out properties that had the most outstanding issues,” Mr. Janes added. Issues ranging from overgrowth to drug use or condemned properties were covered.

According to Janes, Mayor William Peduto and Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak originally committed to focus on 12 properties during the blitz. But because community members worked hard to find all questionable properties that number has risen to 42.

“There’s been such a breath of community input that we wanted to make it as effective as possible and as impactful as possible,” Mr. Janes said. Multiple departments including the police will investigate the finalized list of properties.

While no specific property locations were given, six of the 42 are found along Brownsville Road.

Departments will be using a “report card” consisting of the address of the property, a picture, owner name, owner address, tax status and violations. The corresponding department will handle violations, for example overgrowth would be handled by Public Works while the police would handle drug use.

Concerns specific to the police were handed over to Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon.

Mr. Janes explained the blitz should start this week, a bit late but because they wanted to properly respond to as many calls as possible. “We had to wait to give people ample time to report properties,” he said.

When the meeting was opened for questions, residents expressed concerns to Cmdr. Dixon. Chiefly among those concerns was the influx of drugs in the community.

“I cannot get rid of drugs, I just can’t. We move it and displace it then we displace it again and move it again,” she said.

“Drugs are the biggest problem,” Mr. Sullivan said. “If you clean up the neighborhood and houses you can clean up the drugs.”

Residents also brought up the fear of retaliation from the offenders that are turned in.

Cmdr. Dixon noted she deals with drug arrests everyday and believes retaliation should not be a problem.

“We’re going to make some people unhappy because we are focusing on areas that they may have felt comfortable in that they shouldn’t feel comfortable, ever, in,” she said.

After the question and answer portion of the meeting Zone 3 Community Relations Officer Christine Luffey gave the local crime report, saying the summer has been rough for residents in Carrick but she also offered some encouraging news.

“What I want to say, and I know I’ve said it before, but what I want you to know is that I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for fighting for Carrick,” she said.

Officer Luffey then read the crowd a list of “victories we had over the summer.”

She reported police arrests or investigations within the community in an attempt to stem the tide of narcotics and prostitution.

After giving the crime report, Officer Luffey expressed praise for Cmdr. Dixon saying, “She’s a hard worker, she’s a wonderful person, she’s good to the officers and she truly cares about the communities.”

“It’s working, with the help of the Mayor’s Office, I think it will work,” said Cheryl Veatch of Kirk Avenue block watch.

“I think it will have a big effect,” Mr. Sullivan added at the end of the meeting.

The two stressed the importance of the Mayor’s Office getting involved in their community. “I came sparsely before but ever since the mayor got involved now I come to every meeting,” Ms. Veatch said.

“This is a phenomenal community group, like I’ve said, my other zones when they see that I’ve been to this meeting they ask me, ‘Was there really 120 people?” Cmdr. Dixon said. She added the community involvement makes the police’s job much easier.

The next block watch meeting will be held on October 5 at 7 p.m. in the Pittsburgh Concord School.


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