South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Zone 3 council elects new officers


Last updated 2/27/2019 at 8:55pm

Board elections highlighted the Feb. 18 meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council held at the Knoxville Library.

Liz Style, of the South Side Flats, was elected president. She has served as president since September following the resignation of Ken Wolfe.

The new vice president is Roy Blankenship, of Knoxville. He is a community organizer in the Hilltop, and worked on several public safety council committees.

The secretary is Jessica Benham, of the South Side Slopes. She has served on the public safety council’s communications committee, and is a block watch lead in her community.

The treasurer is Rose Nelson, of Knoxville. She has served as treasurer since October, and is an active member of the Knoxville Community Council.

The meeting began with a report from the communications committee.

Sharlee Ellison said she and Ms. Benham each contacted various community groups and businesses to try to build attendance at the Zone 3 public safety council meetings.

Ms. Benham said the perception is that the police, firefighters, and EMS gather to talk about public safety. But people must be informed that residents mostly attend these meetings.

She also reported she is working on rebranding and updating the logo and marketing.

An attendee commented that when the city was looking to hire a new police chief in 2014 the six public safety councils were utilized for deliberative forums. So, the councils played an important role in bridging residents and the police and the city administration.

Regarding the family-oriented “Picnic with the Police,” Ms. Style reported the tentative date is June 29, with more details to follow.

There will be food, music, tables with information, and more. Food contributed by local vendors will be sought.

It is also an opportunity to have tables with block watch information.

The purpose of the picnic is to bring police and public safety bureaus together with residents to develop and sustain mutual understanding and respect to maintain a safer Zone 3.

In upcoming events, Pittsburgh’s Spring 2019 Student Police Academy will begin March 6 from 6-9 p.m. The program will be held each Wednesday for 10 weeks at the Pittsburgh Police Training Academy, 900 N. Lincoln Ave.

High school youth will experience the highlights of police training and be taught the basics of criminal law, search and seizure, and more. The program is free.

For more information, contact John Tokarski at, or call 412-255-2117.

In other events, the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Parts Conservancy (PPC), are embarking on the Parks Listening Tour. At community meetings and events throughout the city, feedback will be gathered on what residents love about their parks, and what they would like improved.

For a schedule of listening tour events, and to access the survey, visit:

Next, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said the 2019 city budget includes $2,000 for each public safety council. He will follow up on how this will be allocated.

In his St. Patrick’s Day update, he said that three years ago Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich came on board to help as the celebration drew 20,000 to 30,000 to South Side.

This will be the third year under Director Hissrich and Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon, and the event has been much better organized and managed ever since.

There will be a command center at 18th and Carson streets. Delanie’s coffee shop will be available for police officers’ breaks.

A contract is being completed now for 45 portable toilets funded by South Side Parking Enhancement District (PED) funds. No taxpayer dollars are involved.

He said there would be adequate signage for the toilets, which will be located at each surface lot.

The revenue from the PED -- the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays – is in a trust fund to be invested back in the area. The money must go to public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements in the neighborhood.

Last year, 800 revelers utilized the free shuttle service from Parking Authority’s Second Avenue lot. People are again encouraged to leave their cars at home and take advantage of the free parking and shuttle service.

Commander Dixon said all of the zones will be lending support at the event from roughly 10 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Mr. Kraus said the county will have its horses there as their presence has been shown to have a calming effect.

“All systems are in place. We have a very good action plan,” Mr. Kraus said.

In other news, Zone 3 community relations Officer Christine Luffey reported the 21st annual “Biscuits Bingo” fundraiser for local animal organizations, and presented by the Pittsburgh Police, scheduled for March 23 has been sold out. 

There are about 600 attendees each year. Almost one-half million dollars has been raised throughout the years with Biscuits Bingo.

On another topic, Commander Dixon said for the past few months the police have been using ShotSpotter, gunshot detection technology that locates and alerts law enforcement about gunfire incidents in neighborhoods as they occur.

The digital alerts include a precise location on a map with corresponding data such as the address, number of rounds fired, type of gunfire, and so on, delivered to any browser-enabled smartphone or mobile laptop device.

It better protects officers; enhances the likelihood to make arrests and recover evidence; directs police to crime scenes in time to aid victims; and more.

She said it is an important law enforcement tool as 80 percent of shots fired are not reported by residents. Last month, only three calls were made to 911 about gunshots.

Fireworks are weeded out by the system and not sent to the police.

In block watch/community group updates, the East Slopes Block Watch is gathering petitions to ask for a traffic study on Salisbury to deal with traffic issues. New block watches are also being organized on Salisbury and Fernleaf, with organizers knocking on doors to emphasize the presence of an active block watch.

In the South Side Flats block watch, students from Duquesne University and the University of Pittsburgh are being organized to pick up trash.

With the Knoxville Block Watch, Mr. Blankenship said he has been struggling to get the street to be more active, but he’s working on it. He is encouraging residents to be engaged and open to meeting and having conversations with the police.

The first open meeting for 2019 of the Knoxville Community Council will be March 7. The group has done strategic planning and had an election of officers.

On March 13, the community council will participate in a “Let’s Talk” forum at Knoxville Library to find out what’s going on and how the group can lend support.

The next Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting will be held on March 18 at 6 p.m. at the Knoxville Library, 400 Brownsville Rd. There will be no April Zone 3 meeting as there will be a city-wide public safety meeting at the Teamster Temple in Lawrenceville on April 17.

At the May 20 Zone 3 meeting National Night Out on Aug. 6 will be discussed. The June 17 Zone 3 meeting will be the final business meeting before the Picnic with the Police.


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