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By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Commander talks about challenges facing the police


Last updated 12/12/2016 at 6:23pm

Concerned with some recent shootings in and around the Allentown neighborhood, the Allentown CDC asked Zone 3 commander Karen Dixon to speak at the December public meeting of the organization.

“We know who it was.” Command Dixon said of the most recent shooting, in the 600 block of E. Warrington Avenue. “We also know our victim chooses not to cooperate with us. We can’t prove it without him. That’s the missing link”

She said the lack of cooperation has been an ongoing problem with victims saying, “Nope, I got this.”

The commander said once they figure out who the victim is, they can learn who they associate with and start monitoring those individuals.

As an example, she said a young man from the area has been shot at twice and has declined to cooperate with police. He is currently incarcerated on a weapons charge because he chose to carry a gun to protect himself, she added.

Commander Dixon said there are some “really strong individuals” who have been down the same path on the Hilltop who are working to help these young men understand the cycle they are entering into and how dangerous it is.

“God bless them, they’re doing a great job, but they’re also getting frustrated,” she added.

In answer to a question about the cause of the violence, Commander Dixon said she was concerned about what she called the “disrespect factor.” Young men are reacting to Facebook posts where they feel they have been disrespected.

“They’ll throw something on Facebook and the next thing we know, they’re fighting over a Facebook post. Or they’ll put a rap video out or somebody looked at his girl wrong. Just so many times you would be amazed at the answers we get. Sometimes it is a drug issue,” she explained. “It’s amazing how social media can play into these things.”

Asked about a recent shooting on Allen Street, the commander said it is another case of a lack of cooperation. What they know is the victim was involved in an argument and from the number of casings on the street there was a “running gun battle.”

The victim was shot at 11 times, but was not hit.

Commander Dixon was asked by a resident if anything could be done about the bar at Allen and E. Warrington. She responded it wasn’t an easy process to close a bar, Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE) has to be involved.

A recent example she gave was with a bar on Penn Avenue. Calls to the Mayor’s Service Center resulted in documenting complaints about noise and other problems. LCE got involved and the bar was subject to fines, which the commander said could be substantial.

The owner of the bar voluntarily put the liquor license into safe keeping and closed the business rather than face more fines.

As far as the Allentown bar, she said she’s not seeing complaints or reports about the bar.

The commander said there are some bar owners who are apprehensive about calling the police if there are problems in their businesses, concerned the police may target them. That’s not the case she said, there are a lot of good owners out there who don’t want problems in their bars.

Concerning staffing in the zone, she said they currently have 85 officers including detectives and supervisors, an increase over last year. After the first of the year, it’s expected the zone will receive more officers from the recent police training graduating class to bring the total up to 107.

However, she said traditionally the force sees a number of retirements after the first of the year in January and February. There are two officers that she knows of leaving Zone 3 in the new year, one to retirement and one to a suburban department.

The city just started a new training class of police officers last week. Veteran officers undergo 10 weeks of training, regular recruits 31 weeks and they all then go into a field training cycle.

Asked if cars were assigned to particular areas in the zone, the commander said they are assigned to sectors. Those cars don’t usually leave their sectors for low priority calls.

Commander Dixon said each morning they look at all the calls to see if patterns are developing in an effort to “work smarter.” By working smarter, she said they hope to get ahead of things in the sectors.

The police can now also access “heat maps” through a police only Burgh’s Eye View website portal showing where the hot spots for crime are in the city. The maps track where the calls for service were, but not necessarily where a police report was taken.

She said calls in Allentown have been scattered and the neighborhood didn’t show up as having any hot spots.

Asked what neighborhood residents can do to help the police and themselves, Commander Dixon said to call 911 and report what they see and hear. Too often people aren’t calling 911 when they hear gunshots or for other problems.

Another problem she said was that people are calling 311, the Mayor’s complaint line, often repeatedly about situations that should have been reported to 911. When she reviews the 311 calls, there will often be calls in the middle of the night that should have required an officer’s attention sooner than later.


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