South Side to form blighted property resident watch group
The Feb. 15 meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council was conducted by vice-president Ron Rompala in the absence of council president Ken Wolfe.
The previous meeting was in November.
“I didn’t want to go three months without a meeting,” he said.
When attendees were asked for any concerns, Barbara Rudiak of the South Side Community Council (SSCC) said while the 17th St. Block Watch is doing well, the block watch concept does not stick among the South Side community at large.
She has attended Oakwatch meetings in Oakland which are run by residents, and bring together representatives of the University of Pittsburgh police, staff, and student government; city police, public works, and council; and more.
Blighted property is a big issue with Oakwatch, she said.
On March 14, the SSCC will hold a community meeting to discuss forming a resident-led group in South Side similar to Oakwatch. It will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Brashear Center, 2005 Sarah St.
Representatives from Oakwatch will speak with residents and share information on launching a similar program.
Liz Style, of the city’s Dept. of Public Safety, said Oakwatch began as a means to address which blighted houses should be worked on first. Ten properties were chosen, with most mediated by the end of the first year.
She also said Duquesne University distributes an informational booklet to students based on what the University of Pittsburgh developed from the Oakwatch meetings.
“It really has reduced a lot of concerns and improved communication with students,” Ms. Style said.
Next, a Mt. Washington resident inquired about the presence of a SWAT team in the neighborhood recently. Crime prevention officer Christine Luffey said she thinks it involved drugs.
Mr. Rompala said news alerts may be found on Facebook, and on-line at “News and Alerts in Western PA.”
Ms. Style said the city’s public safety and police departments have Facebook pages, as do all of the zones. Some also have Twitter accounts.
On another topic, she said the police department is trying to get residents interested again in graffiti reporting as there has been a drop in graffiti calls.
A recent arrest of a graffiti vandal uncovered 58 defaced sites – totaling $114,000 in damages – with only four called in by residents.
To a question of whether to call 311 for graffiti on mailboxes, Mr. Rompala said to call U.S. Postal Inspection at 1-877-876-2455.
In a brief presentation on the Women’s Center and Shelter (WC&S) of Greater Pittsburgh, a legal advocate said most residents reside there a minimum of 30 days. While 95 percent of the victims of domestic violence she works with are female, she also works with male victims, although they do not reside there.
She works in the legal advocacy department, which helps with Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders, attends domestic violence court proceedings, and more. There are three attorneys on staff, which is not enough, she said.
The services of the WC&S include 24-hour hotline (412-687-8005); legal advocacy civil law project; emergency shelter; children’s program; medical advocacy; empowerment center; education; and men’s group.
Regarding the latter, most participants are court-mandated or required by probation to complete a batterers’ intervention program. Other men participate to gain a better understanding of how to not choose abusive behaviors. For more information, call 412-687-8017 ext. 340.
On the topic of media relations, Mr. Rompala said residents who are outdoors advocating for a cause, and suddenly have a TV news camera “in your face,” can refrain from commenting, if they so choose.
“Let the people who are trained do it,” he said. Ms. Style said the police department has two women who handle community relations.
In announcements, the 18th annual “Biscuits Bingo” fundraiser for local animal organizations will be held on Feb. 27 at the IBEW Hall Local #5, South Side.
Doors open at 10 a.m., and bingo starts at noon. Admission is $25, and tickets can only be purchased at the door. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 412-901-4771. The event sold out last year.
The next city-wide public safety meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on April 20 in Teamsters Hall, 4701 Butler St., Lawrenceville.