By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Z-3 safety meeting looks for answers to neighborhood issues


National Night Out, the Knoxville Blitz, 311 non-emergency line, overgrown weeds, and vandalism were among the topics at the July 18 Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting.

 It began with crime prevention Officer Christine Luffey informing attendees the next session of the Pittsburgh Citizen’s Police Academy will start in September at Carrick High School.

 The free academy offers a behind-the-scenes look at what police do, like how fingerprints are taken.

 Participants are also taught the basics of criminal law, search and seizure, patrol tactics, firearms, and more.

 Classes meet three hours a week during the evening for 15 weeks. For more information, email:

 Next, Liz Style, of the city’s Dept. of Public Safety, reminded everyone National Light Out will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

 So far, there are 39 registered groups holding gatherings for the event. To register a block watch or other group, and for more information, visit: Public safety materials may be requested.

 A family-friendly kick-off for National Night Out is scheduled for July 26 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in Market Square, downtown, and includes children’s events.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 31, OpenStreetsPGH will be held from downtown to the Northside to the West End. Streets will be closed to motorized vehicles to allow for walking, running, biking, skating, and more.

Businesses will remain open for participants to stop in.

 Among the displays along the route will be one by the Dept. of Public Safety.

 Ms. Style also reported the Public Safety Dept. held a downtown town hall meeting the prior week which Chief Cameron McLay was pleased with, so more such meetings will follow in the various zones.

 In her brief remarks, Zone 3 police Commander Karen Dixon said an arrest was pending in the shooting the prior evening of a 6-year-old Isis Allen on Zara St. in Knoxville.

“We had very good information last night,” she said.

Since the meeting, Kamau Thomas Jr., 19, of Carrick, has been arrested for the crime.

 She also said the tents by the river trail in the South Side Flats will be removed by Aug.1.

 In her crime update, she said the South Side Flats has been overtaken by Mt. Washington as the site of most of the crimes in the zone.

 A Knoxville resident said in preparation for the upcoming blitz -- in which city and community groups identify and target hotbeds of crime and blight in the neighborhood -- she noticed numerous houses with no displayed house numbers.

 Public safety council president Ken Wolfe said it is not illegal in the city to not have a house number. But it may make it difficult for the EMS and fire departments to find an address in an emergency.

 A resident said some people do not want visible house numbers for various reasons.

 Commander Dixon said the police have devices which allow them to locate specific sites.

 Next, Barbara Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council, said calling 311 about overgrown weeds does not elicit a citation until 90 days later. She would like a change of policy to fewer days before action may be taken.

 The city procedure to hold a public hearing before city council to request change requires the signatures of 25 city residents on a petition. The residents should also be willing to speak at the hearing.

 Mr. Wolfe said he will contact District Justice Richard King for more information.

 Other attendees also said high weeds are a problem in their neighborhoods.

 Mr. Wolfe said to call 311 so the complaint is logged. Callers receive a reference number so they can call back to learn the resolution. If the operator does not give a reference number the caller must request one. If the complaint is made on-line to 311, a reference number will be automatically generated.

 A Mt. Washington resident said weeds were once so high on a private property that he cut the weeds and grass. Another resident said going on private property like that is trespassing.

 A another solution is asking district justices to assign community service youngsters to outdoor maintenance, like pulling weeds or picking up litter. Some college groups will also volunteer.

 To a question about snow removal, Mr. Wolfe said city property owners have 24 hours after the snow has stopped to clear their sidewalks. It is a violation of city policy to shovel snow into the street.

 In neighborhood news, the annual five-course farm dinner in Grandview Park will be held at 5 p.m. on Aug. 21. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Friends of Grandview Park. The event is sold out.

 Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Block Watch coordinator Suzanne Photos said the new mini-library at Mountain and Fisher streets was vandalized and the books torn apart. Officer Luffey knocked on nearby doors and went to the elementary school to talk to the principal.

 More recently, benches that were cemented to the ground at the game tables were lifted up and turned on their side.

 Ms. Photos said it is the same youngsters committing all of the vandalism.

 “We need boys and girls clubs,” she said.

 A Knoxville resident that a lot of neighborhood problems spring from Section 8 housing residents.

 “Section 8 is very responsive,” Mr. Wolfe said. If a house is causing problems, Section 8 will look into it and evict the occupants.

The resident said she grew up in Knoxville, and cannot believe how it has fallen apart.

 “This angers me on the parenting side,” she said of youngsters running wild without supervision.

 The next public safety council meeting will be on Sept. 19 as there will be no August meeting.


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