South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mt. Oliver City Block Watch updated on public safety questions


The March 24 Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Block Watch meeting began with the local crime rate, which community relations Officer Christine Luffey called “extremely low.”

The report for Mt. Oliver City covered Jan. 28 to March 24.

The four reported crimes were: theft of a truck from a Fisher St. residence; arrests of two people for selling drugs at a McManus St. home; theft of laptop, jewelry, watches, and more from a Walde St. home; and drugs found outside a Burr St. residence.

Officer Luffey said with the nice weather approaching, residents will notice unmaintained property, abandoned cars, and more, for which they should call 311.

“Stay on it. Report everything, and follow up to make sure the government is working for you,” she said.

She also reported the 18th annual “Biscuits Bingo,” fundraiser for local animal organizations held on Feb. 27 raised a record $33,132, or $7,000 more than last year. Attendees sold out the IBEW Hall Local #5, South Side.

A new resident to the area asked if she should call the police if she sees a group of youths, whom she suspects are selling drugs, huddled together on the street.

Officer Luffey said if they are simply gathered as a group and not bothering anyone, to do nothing. But if they are exchanging items, it is most likely drugs, so they should call 911 and give the location.

An attendee complained about someone riding a dirt bike up and down Mountain St.

Officer Luffey said it is a big problem in Carrick, with bikers riding in cemeteries over graves. If the risk outweighs safety, the police will not chase them, she said.

Riding dirt bikes on city streets is illegal.

The bikes typically don’t have licenses or registration or insurance, making them a risk to everyone, she said.

She told attendees to jot down information about the biker, like a physical description and the address of the driveway he pulls into. She will then go to the address and issue citations.

To a question about crossing jurisdictional lines, Officer Luffey said if the police begin chasing a suspect in Mt. Oliver City, and the suspect flees into another town, the police will follow. Any available unit will respond, she said.

“We will do the same for them.

“We are law enforcement, and all on the same team,” Officer Luffey said.

To a curfew question, she said it is not enforced as there is no longer a curfew center for youths.

But if anyone sees unsupervised youngsters out late, to call 911. They may remain anonymous.

To another question, Officer Luffey said basketball hoops are not permitted on sidewalks or streets.

Once she went to a home with a nearby hoop on the street at the request of an elderly woman who was distressed by the noise and offended by the bad language of the youngsters.

She told the mother of the home the hoop was not legal, and it had to be moved or she would be cited.

“I want my kids right here,” the woman said.

The hoop was taken down. When the elderly resident next saw Officer Luffey she thanked her.

“We can work on things together -- quality of life issues matter,” Officer Luffey said.

The evening’s other guest speaker was state Rep. Harry Readshaw of the 36th legislative district.

He told attendees if they get mailings from him they live in the 36th district, which covers parts of the city and Baldwin, and the boroughs of Brentwood and Mount Oliver.

He said just as Officer Luffey does a great job, so does the block watch as it is organized and can therefore report problems to the police and other city departments.

“You are the eyes and ears of the community,” he said.

He said to stop by his local office at 1917 Brownsville Rd. in Carrick for assistance with any state government-related issue.

“That’s why we’re there to serve you,” he said.

To a question of charter schools versus public schools, Mr. Readshaw said the current situation must be corrected.

As it stands now, if tuition in a charter school is, say, $12,000, and the city schools spend, say, $18,000 to educate a child, the district must pay $18,000 to the charter school for each of its public school students.

Mr. Readshaw said the charter school should get $12,000, its tuition amount.

To a question of why the city cost is higher, he said charter schools do not have to take special education students. Also, transportation is paid by the city schools to take students to charter schools.

Next, Neil Manganaro, community relations manager for city Councilman Bruce Kraus’ office, fielded questions.

To a question about turning a one-way road into a two-way road, he said to submit a petition to the Dept. of Public Works.

To a question about having a crossing guard at Fisher and Mountain streets, he said it is funded by the Public Safety Dept. Requests should be made during budget time.

He said he is not sure if crossing guards are in place yet for the Phillip Murray School in Mt. Oliver when it reopens in the fall. But details will be hammered out between now and the start of school.

The two buildings the Arlington students now attend will close.

The Phillip Murray building is larger than those two buildings combined, and will cost less to operate.

To a question about getting Parkwood Rd. resurfaced, he said the councilman’s office puts in requests to Public Works, which makes the final decisions.

The next block watch meeting will be on May 26 at the Ormsby Avenue Cafe.


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