South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Zone 3 Council celebrates a successful year and looks forward to a better '20


Last updated 11/28/2019 at 6pm

The annual end-of-year meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC) on Nov. 18 began with President Liz Style detailing some of the group's 2019 accomplishments.

They include: holding seven open general meetings; hosting one city-wide public safety meeting; holding two board meetings; and hosting the fall city-wide public safety meeting.

The Communications Committee co-chairs and secretary developed a d-list; initiated a Facebook page and monthly newsletter; and developed a membership outreach strategy.

The Z3PSC held information presentations during general meetings on: investigating complaints against public safety personnel; a free web app that provides easy-to-use listings of services for people experiencing homelessness; and a city-wide bike trail plan.

The group also partnered with the Carrick/Overbrook Community Block Watch to promote a zone-wide informational session on citizens' response to an active threat.

Ms. Style then cited individuals for special recognition.

Among them was city council members Theresa Kail-Smith, Anthony Coghill, and Bruce Kraus for voting to allocate $2,000 to each zone council. She also cited Mr. Kraus for attending Z3PSC meetings.

She thanked Public safety outreach coordinator Jay Gilmer, who attends the meetings, for responding quickly to her questions and concerns.

The Z3PSC received a $2,229 grant from the "Love My Neighbor" grant program which helped fund the family-oriented Picnic with the Police on June 29 at the Arlington spray park, or "the fort."

Ms. Style thanked others whose efforts/donations made the picnic possible, such as Neighbors on the Mount, additional support from Mr. Coghill and Mr. Kraus, and all of the volunteers that day. There were 250 to 300 residents in attendance at the picnic.

She also thanked the group's planning committee, and Zone 3 officers Christine Luffey and Commander Karen Dixon, and the roughly 35 officers who attended the picnic.

"We really wanted to pull the community together, and it worked," she said.

Ms. Style also commended Communications Committee members Jess Benham and Sharlee Ellison for their work, and Donna Williams as the Block Watch Development and Support Committee chair.

She said Mrs. Williams helped start numerous block watches the past year.

Ms. Style also thanked all of the EMS for being there whether we needed them or not, and Park ranger Zachary Zelazny for attending Z3PSC meetings and volunteering at the Picnic with the Police.

She also thanked her husband, Robert Cavalier, for his participation and support.

Mr. Kraus concluded the recognitions by thanking Ms. Style for her leadership.

For 2020, the Z3PSC goals include: holding seven open general meetings; initiating a membership outreach strategy; holding another Picnic With Police as the premier summer event in Zone 3; requesting City Council to again appropriate $2,000 to each of the six public safety councils in the city; and more.

Next, Wendell Hissrich, director of public safety, gave an update on staffing, training, and technology across the city's public safety bureaus.

He began by saying the interaction of Z3PSC with the police, firefighters, and paramedics is important.

"A little thank-you goes a long way," he said.

He next thanked Mr. Kraus for his support of public safety over the years, and listed recent purchases to enhance public safety.

The city will be spending $9 million to equip police officers with high-tech tasers and body cameras, which will replace worn body cameras. The tasers will be interactive with the cameras, Mr. Hissrich said.

The city will also be spending $3.1 million for new defibrillators.

Set to debut on Nov. 22 during Light Up Night is SkyWatch, which will provide public safety officials with an aerial view of crowds. SkyWatch can also be used in future remote locations.

Mr. Hissrich also reported Mayor Peduto announced plans for a new police substation in the South Side in late 2020 during his annual budget address earlier in the month. It would be located in the former Zone 3 police station in the Flats, which will need renovation to bring it up to code.

Until that occurs, a storefront on Carson St. could serve temporarily as the substation.

"Having officers that bar owners and patrons see and know will be instrumental," he said.

However, if the required renovation of the former police station is too extensive, it may be moved to a different site, Mr. Hissrich said. But the former station has holding cells, which is a positive in its favor, he said.

On another topic, he reported the city is close to acquiring the former 168-acre Veterans Affairs hospital property in Lincoln-Lemington to use as an advanced public safety training facility for police, firefighters and paramedics.

He also reported almost all public safety departments are fully staffed. Even the EMT are fully staffed, he said, which alleviates the stress on paramedics.

To a question about squatters in empty houses, Commander Dixon said the police are finding the squatters are often relatives of the home owners, so they cannot be removed as they could have legal access.

But neighbors should call the police, who will come by and assess the situation, she said.

To a question about the hoarding of animals in Carrick, Officer Luffey said five is the limit of dogs and cats. She asked for the address to look into the matter after Thanksgiving.

As to the holiday, Get Stuffed With Love, to ensure no city resident goes without a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, will be held again this year. Call a zone police station to register for the free meal delivered to your home.

Ms. Style said for issues like hoarding and squatting and more to call 911 or 311.

"Don't let someone say 'we always call and it never works'," she said.

Mrs. Williams said she instructs about 311 and 911 at block watch meetings. With 311 calls, always ask for a reference number, she said, so you call back for an update.

A complaint she hears is that after calling 911 the police simply drive by and never contact the caller. She tells people to ask for the officer to return the call at a later date.

Complaints may also be reported anonymously.

Mr. Kraus said the complaint he receives the most calls about is no longer parking, but property-related problems. A Knoxville resident cited absentee landlords and property management companies as the root of those problems.

The resident said she would like a good explanation from District Justice Richard King on the process. The problem, she said, is a lot of elderly residents are afraid of the young people in the neighborhood who cause havoc.

Mr. Hissrich said a disruptive property coordinator was recently hired from the Housing Authority who will get control of these matters.

A resident said Carrick shootings are a real problem.

"If you hear shots fired, call 911," Commander Dixon said.

There will be no December or January meetings. The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Feb. 17 at the Knoxville Library.


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