South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Austin Vaught
Contributing Writer 

Director Hissrich addresses block watch on public safety issues


This year’s public safety achievements and the importance of block watch groups were topics on Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich’s agenda when he visited the Carrick Block Watch meeting last Monday.

Mr. Hissrich opened the meeting with an overview of his 25-year career with the FBI and time spent as a Pittsburgh paramedic before jumping into a string of accomplishments made by the department of public safety since he took over as leader last January.

One achievement is public safety staffing as the city has exceeded 900 police officers for the first time in decades. The city is overstaffed on firefighters which will help in the event of any upcoming retirements. There is a current shortage in paramedics; however, the department is working to onboard 20 new EMTs.

Another accomplishment was supplying Narcan, an opiate antidote used to reverse overdoses, to the majority of police vehicles. However, Mr. Hissrich said it’s becoming a significant expense as the cost per dose recently jumped from $7 to $28.

“We’re about 80 percent covered with Narcan,” Mr. Hissrich said. “We’re at about 24 saves that police officers have done with nasal Narcan, so I think that’s working out. Unfortunately, we’re saving the same person over and over again.”

A resident asked if the public safety department is able to bill a person upon receiving Narcan treatment; however, Mr. Hissrich said while the department is permitted to bill third parties, city residents are not charged and the total cost is often not recovered.

In addition to Narcan, police officers are also carrying chip readers for pets so they’re able to quickly identify owners and contact information.

Mr. Hissrich also mentioned how city-wide training on one-handed CPR played has improved heart-attack survival statistics locally. Public safety also worked to institute a new two-year course that provides public safety training to students at Westinghouse High School.

“We want to keep Pittsburghers in Pittsburgh working for the city of Pittsburgh,” Mr. Hissrich said.

Among next year’s public safety plans are the acquisition of a “fire boat” that will help to extinguish river fires and a drone to aid during SWAT and hazardous material situations.

One resident asked what the department is doing about recent reports that city street cameras are not operating properly.

Mr. Hissrich said the problem occurred due to miscommunication between departments and public safety is currently working to resolve the problem. Earlier this year, up to 38 percent of the city street cameras were not working and the department has been able to decrease that number to 14 percent so far.

Mr. Hissrich applauded the Carrick block watch and encouraged residents to keep up their hard work as community groups play a significant role in public safety.

“I’d like to thank everyone for what they do,” Mr. Hissrich said. “The block watches, I think I’ve covered a lot of them. They all serve a purpose that police would not be able to function without them.”

Following the public safety presentation, Zone 3 police officer Christine Luffey discussed several incidents that occurred in Carrick in October.

According to officer Luffey, police officers in plain clothes were patrolling the 2000 block of Delrose Street on October 12 after several complaints from block watch members about frequent drug transactions. Police observed two individuals exchange cash and drugs and were able to catch the buyer. The man was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance.

A man was stabbed following a road rage incident in Carrick on October 20 at 7:10 a.m .; however, police are unable to identify the exact location of the incident. The victim was taken to the hospital and the incident is under investigation.

Police were called after a man observed a teenager holding a toddler over the balcony of a residence on East Agnew Street on October 23 at 4:30 p.m. The case was transferred to Child Youth and Family services.

A man was getting out of his car in the 2200 block of Brownsville Road when two teenagers approached the man, dragged him to the side of the road, beat him, and took his wallet. The incident occurred on October 25 at 9:33 p.m. Police are investigating.

A Carrick High School student was robbed at gunpoint on October 27 at 3:00 p.m. He was walking home on Brownsville Road near Overbrook Boulevard.

Police responded to a domestic incident on October 30 at 5:22 a.m. when a man was thrown through a glass door at a home in the 100 block of Poplargrove Street. The suspect was arrested at the scene.

Following the crime report, Officer Luffey also announced the annual Get Stuffed With Love program will take place again this year. The program provides free Thanksgiving meals to any city residents in need. It’s expected that this year’s program will feed approximately 3,500 residents in the city of Pittsburgh.

The Carrick / Overbrook Crime Watch annual Christmas party will be Monday, Dec. 5 in the Concord K5 cafeteria.


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