South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Zone 3 should be up to 107 officers in the new year

 


The officials in attendance at the Nov. 16 meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council were city Council President Bruce Kraus, Acting Police Chief Scott Schubert, Commander Karen Dixon, and Officer Christine Luffey.

The meeting was conducted by secretary Donna Williams in the absence of president Ken Wolfe and vice-president Ron Rompala.

She reported the executive staff voted that there would be no December meeting due to the scheduled date falling so close to Christmas. The next meeting will be Jan. 16, during which elections will be held. Nominations should be submitted to Ms. Williams, who will share them with the board.

In her brief comments, Officer Luffey said she was working hard on the “Get Stuffed With Love” program, which ensures no residents go without a traditional turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. She said her phone was overflowing with requests for the delivery of free, warm meals on Thanksgiving Day.

Commander Dixon said “things are going well” in Zone 3. The number of officers should reach 107 in the station in February, for which she thanked the acting chief who, she said, recognizes the zone is the busiest in the city.

The zone receives a couple of hundred calls more than the other zones, averaging 1,000 calls a week, the commander said.

“We are tired of replacing chiefs. You have to stay,” Ms. Williams said to Acting Chief Schubert.

She also said she attended the free Pittsburgh Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA) which offers residents 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.

“It’s a fantastic program. I say take the course – it’s educational and fun,” she said.

The current CPA class will be completed on Dec. 20, with enrollees graduating with the first student group from Carrick High School.

“I wish they had more classes,” Ms. Williams said.

Barbara Rudiak, of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), said while she liked former Chief Cameron McLay, learning that Mr. Schubert would be taking his place was “calming” for her.

The acting chief said nothing much will change – there will be the same emphasis on community engagement and analytics as with the former chief.

In his comments, Mr. Kraus said he credits the acting chief and the commander with stressing the importance of staffing in the zone. For years, Zone 3 has had the highest call volume and the lowest number of staff members.

He said he has the mayor’s blessing on looking at different ways to police the entertainment district. Just that day, legislation was introduced to collect parking funds for night and weekend use to be used for the police and on weekends.

Mr. Kraus said the number one complaint he receives on the Hilltop is that officers are always dealing with revelries in South Side, thereby leaving fewer officers for elsewhere.

He said an equitable distribution of officers is needed on the Hilltop.

On the topic of block watches, Ms. Williams said she would like to have a program in which all of the block watches in the city are organized. Currently, there are four new block watches in the Mt. Oliver/Knoxville area.

Commander Dixon has been coming to many of these meetings, Ms. Williams said.

Another attendee agreed that block watches should be coordinated.

To a comment about acquiring grant funds for block watches, Mr. Kraus said writing a grant is a very specialized process. He said he stresses to organizations they should set aside the time and diligence to tackle grant applications.

The Hilltop Alliance, which is organized and represents the Hilltop, writes grants, and has the capacity to distribute Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, he said.

Liz Style, of the city’s Dept. of Public Safety, will shortly be retiring. As she resides in Zone 3, so will continue to be involved in the community and attend public meetings, she said.

On Nov. 1, she was presented with a special proclamation in City Council declaring it “Liz Style Day” in the City of Pittsburgh.

Commander Dixon thanked Ms. Style for all she did for her when she started at the zone.

Ms. Rudiak said Ms. Style was a big help in the year she spent working on the new “South Watch” based on Oakwatch, a public safety/code compliance initiative in Oakland that brings residents and groups together to identify code violations, advocate for remediation, and monitor the outcomes.

Oakwatch compiles a report in which the worst violations/properties are prioritized, and then targeted for code compliance.

The neighborhood’s quality of life is then improved by enforcing codes on negligent property owners, housing and parking violations, disruptive behavior, underage drinking, and more.

Ms. Rudiak said she would like a police presence at the South Watch meetings once they begin.

Mr. Kraus said Oakwatch is “amazing to see,” as its meetings bring together representatives of the University of Pittsburgh police, staff, and student government; city police, public works, and council; and others.

 

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