South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Saturation Detail making a dent in crime in the South Side Flats


Last updated 2/21/2018 at 8pm

Addressing South Side’s South Watch meeting, Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon said there aren’t any alarming trends in the Flats and Slopes.

Responding to an inquiry about stolen car reports from South Watch members before the meeting, the commander explained there were several reasons: With the weather turning colder, people were letting their cars warm up unattended – making them an easy target for thieves. The second explanation was simpler, several people didn’t have their cars stolen, they had them towed for parking illegally.

Burglaries also stood out as having a higher than normal number with seven in the Flats. There were three business burglaries with one on Bingham Street cleared by arrest; a second was an attempted burglary with no entry being made; and, the third was “purely an opportunity.”

In the third one, someone broke into a car and found a garage door remote. Later, they returned to the house and were able to get in through the garage.

In several of the home burglaries, it’s suspected the thief is someone known to the families because they knew exactly where to go.

Commander Dixon noted in the Slopes someone tried twice to break into a home under renovation.

The commander said the police would be meeting with bar owners in South Side this week to discuss St. Patrick Day “festivities.” She said Sgt. Tom Gault would the point person for the day.

Sgt. Gault, also attending the meeting, reported on the “Saturation Detail” that has been working in the South Side Flats.

“I love stats they tell you a lot, but unless you have eyes on it’s really hard to interpret what they really mean,” the Zone 3 sergeant began.

He explained that in 2017, the Saturation Detail made roughly 1,050 arrests with 200 being physical arrests and the other 850 receiving non-traffic citations in the mail for crimes such as public urination and public drunkenness.

Almost 700 of the arrests came in the first half of the year. He attributed the high number to having a large number of young officers. As the year went on and the officers’ skills improved at deescalating situations improved the number of arrests went down.

Another reason for the drop, he explained, was people became aware more the Saturation Detail was in South Side aggressively patrolling the allies and side streets.

“I think the word is out. What we have in South Side is probably 80 percent of the people that come down there, frequent there, so when they become familiar the police are being diligent in enforcing these quality of life issues, they won’t do it,” Sgt. Gault said.

In addition, there were 3,500 traffic citations issued.

“Almost every one of those were for parking tickets,” Sgt. Gault said. “A lot of that is due to the new no parking lane. Which is phenomenal by the way. It helps us so much to get where we need to be, to get emergency services where they need to be and not have to beat traffic.

“It’s a fantastic idea and we saw the benefits of it right away.”

Police also had 963 vehicles towed, most in the second half of the year. Many of the towed cars were from the no parking lane, but they were also removed from the neighborhood for parking too close to corners and blocking driveways and garages.

“We’re trying to be very diligent and taking care of those issues for the residents of South Side,” Sgt. Gault said.

With help from additional detectives and officers from other areas, the Saturation Detail also made an impact on removing illegal guns from the streets. Thirty-two gun arrests were made last year, a 50 percent increase over the prior year, more than four of six police zones combined.

“The good news is the last three months of the year we haven’t had any gun arrests,” the sergeant said.

He noted that arrests are down for all offenses for January.

“If I’m evaluating it as a supervisor, I think our guys did a very good job. We hit it hard early. We stayed consistent. We were out on patrol. We were in the alleys. We were writing citations. We were dealing with the issues citizens were complaining about and now we’re seeing the proof of that. Now we don’t have to work as hard, because it’s not happening,” Sgt. Gault said.

However, he noted they will continue to walk the streets, check the alleys and have plain-clothes officers in the neighborhood “because the second we go away, it will come back again.”

Commander Dixon pointed out the body camera she was wearing. Zone 3 is the first police zone in the city to have officers wearing the cameras.

She said currently about one-third of the officers in the zone have been trained in the use of the cameras. After a delay, additional officers have begun training in the use of the cameras.


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