South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Zone 3 council learns more about dealing with disruptive properties

 

Demolition has begun on the former Public Works Division 4 building off of Bausman Street in Knoxville.

Pittsburgh Assistant Public Safety Director Shatara Murphy spoke on "Disruptive Properties: How to Identify and What to Do About Them," at the June 18 meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council.

Officials in attendance at the meeting at Kingdom Life Fellowship Pittsburgh, in Knoxville, included city Councilman Bruce Kraus, Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon, and community relations Officer Christine Luffey.

The meeting was conducted by group vice-president Liz Style.

Ms. Murphy said any property in violation of the law or a city ordinance can be called disruptive.

In a 12-month period, if a property is cited three times, it can be deemed disruptive. A property owner may appeal. If the ruling stands, it will be regarded as one strike.

A Knoxville resident stated a lot of disruptive properties in her neighborhood are rentals. Even if the renters are evicted the same problematic types of people move in, she said.

Ms. Murphy said she has found that often managers and owners are not familiar with the disruptive properties legislation. She said to let her know and she will inform the landlords of the legislation if that is the case.

"We want to be pro-active and inform up front so they can lease responsible," she said. Landlords may also be mailed information or directed to the city website.

The city is currently in the process of updating the disruptive properties legislation. Ms. Murphy said the new legislation should be put in the leases.

As for block watch members getting in touch with landlords, Ms. Murphy said she does not want anyone putting themselves at risk, or for block watches to get a reputation as watching renters. However, they may continue it if landlords welcome the approach.

To a question if a police report is needed for three strikes, the answer is yes.

If a police officer responds to a call in the neighborhood, can a resident tell the officer they would like to have a police report done?

Commander Dixon said yes, one can request the incident be written as a police report.

Questioned about disruptive Duquesne University students, and how a report can be passed on to Tim Lewis, director of commuter affairs at Duquesne, the commander said police usually call him and say there is a problem.

Ms. Murphy was asked if calls to 311, the city's phone number for government information and non-emergency services, can be used as proof of complaints, she said yes, it can be used as evidence in a hearing.

Mr. Kraus said a police officer must respond for a citation to be issued.

To a question about the noise ordinance, he said it took three years of "diligently working" to develop.

"It is one of the most complex topics," he said. The heart and soul of the ordinance, Mr. Kraus said, is a "reasonable person's reasonable expectation."

If the noise continues, call 911 and 311. "Never ever put yourself in harm's way," he said.

The complexity arises as there are all different kinds of noise, Mr. Kraus said, such as HVAC units, partying, motorcycles, dirt bikes, and construction at 3 a.m.

If you call and want to remain anonymous, ask that the officer calls and does not stop at your house, the commander said.

If you call 311, ask for your reference number.

To a question about graffiti, Mr. Kraus said to take a photograph as it helps establish a "trail of the offender."

As a case is built against a repeat offender, it helps to have the square footage of the damage for a higher fine and crime level.

Commander Dixon said to call 911 if the crime is in progress. If the vandalism already occurred, call 311 and a police officer will come and photograph the damage and file a report as it is important to have a record.

In her brief update, Commander Dixon said there has been an increase in stolen cars. She added that more than 50 percent of the vehicles stolen had their keys left inside.

In announcements, Ms. Style also reported she and others are working on what materials to make available to block watches. A website is also being planned. The resources available on how to start a block watch will also be listed.

The annual National Night Out that promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie will be held on Aug. 7. Organizers should register their event on the city website in order to receive free materials.

As to whether horses will be available for the events, Mr. Kraus said he would ask Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich.

Mr. Kraus said the Public Works' 4th Division facility on Bausman St. in Knoxville which became uninhabitable as the building was toxic and unhealthy, would be demolished shortly.

A confirmed rebuilding site will be named by July.

The next Zone 3 meeting will be on July 16 at the Zone 3 station, 830 E. Warrington Ave., Allentown.

 

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