South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Two organizations work for peace in South Pittsburgh

 

September 29, 2020



Presentations on two local organizations working to help maintain peace in the zone were the focus of the Sept. 21 meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC).

The presenters were Reverend Eileen O. Smith, director of the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace (SPCP) and board member of the Birmingham Foundation, and Richard Carrington, team leader of the South Pittsburgh Peacemakers (SPP).

“These are two organizations that do a lot of good work in our zone,” Z3PSC president Liz Style said.

The group’s Zoom video conference included city Councilman Bruce Kraus.

The first speaker, Rev. Smith, said the grassroots organization was founded in 2005 by the Birmingham Foundation in conjunction with several community organizations and faith-based institutions following the shooting death of a Carrick High School student.

It is a conglomerate of groups and agencies committed to the prevention of violence in South Pittsburgh.

Rev. Smith said SPCP provides a voice in the community when there are homicides, especially of children.

The organization also engages in community outreach, which is a cornerstone of the group.

“We are about building communities that are peaceful and nurturing,” she said.

Among its programs is the annual Dare to Dream youth conference, which focuses on positive youth initiatives.

She called the recent virtual conference a “huge success,” with about 60 viewers/participants.

Youth talent and accomplishments are showcased, and scholarships awarded to academically outstanding high school students.

A $500 scholarship was provided by Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action dedicated to gun violence prevention.

SPCP meets quarterly. It is governed by a steering committee.

One of SPCP’s funding sources is Everytown for Gun Safety, based in New York. It is also funded through Moms Demand Action, the Birmingham Foundation, and other sources.

For more information, visit: www.southpittsburghcoalitionforpeace.org, and Facebook.

Next, Mr. Carrington, said the SPP, which he co-founded, consists of intervention specialists and a chaplain who strive to prevent shootings by identifying and mediating potentially lethal conflicts.

Rev. Smith called him “the best street violence interrupter that there is.”

“We are South Pittsburgh Hilltop,” Mr. Carrington said, adding the Flats and Slopes are not included. The SPP works with churches and other organizations.

The SPP engages in mediations, such as for “drug deals gone bad” and more, and usually on backstreets where the police are eventually called, although there is currently a presence on Warrington Ave.

Mr. Carrington said SPP is familiar with generations of community families and organizations. As such, he knows that South Pittsburgh violence the past few years has come from people outside the community.

He and his team have testified on the federal level on the effects of growing up with gun violence.

He also said if the team comes in contact with people with guns, they try to get them to put the guns down. 

Team members will share information on optional job programs and resources with people leaning toward violence.

Rev. Darnell Drewery said he provides services for SPP from a “faith-based perspective,” with most of his work dealing with trauma needs. He is contacted by Rev. Smith or Mr. Carrington.

“It is a good model that more people should appreciate,” attendee Robert Cavalier said of SPCC and SPP.

Attendee Judy Hackel said Mr. Carrington is not acknowledged for all the work he does on the Hilltop.

A Fernleaf St. who lives across from the spray park said he is thinking of moving in light of four recent shootings. He asked what residents can do to help Rev. Smith and Mr. Carrington.

Mr. Carrington said the first thing is to get together with residents to brainstorm about this. 

He said those meeting could stand 6-feet to 8-feet apart. The Fernleaf resident could walk around the area and point to areas he thinks is causing the trouble.

Police officers could be brought in, and Mr. Kraus’ office would be contacted.

Mr. Kraus said he would attend if his schedule permits. He said the shootings appear random, and occur during the daytime.

Mr. Carrington said from now on either himself or one of the other two street representatives will attend these monthly Zone 3 meetings.

The next speaker was police Lieutenant Louis Caporali, who is in charge of Zone 3 until November when Commander Karen Dixon returns.

He reported there were 60 calls in August for shots fired, with one to two victims hit. A male hit six times on Rochelle St. is recovering.

Regarding the spray park shootings, no one has come forth with information. But the police are focusing patrols there, especially in the day to talk to youngsters and neighbors.

Problematic are three “speakeasys” which are appearing in the zone for those who want to socialize after 11 p.m. in defiance of the COVID restrictions. 

The three speakeasys are on Arlington Ave., Brownsville Rd., and Mt. Oliver St. None has a license to sell alcohol so it is not an LCB issue.

Mr. Kraus said this has been a big problem for police since about July 5.

He also reported there were about 400 people at the Mt. Oliver St. speakeasy the previous Friday. He met with the district attorney and the city’s public safety director the following day, and the venue was shut down Saturday night. It did not reopen on Sunday.

Very often the speakeasies are shut down, and then reopen. The problem is that no directive has been provided to local authorities by the governor’s office on how to govern or enforce COVID, he said.

Mr. Kraus said he is fearful that these large gatherings could lead to a similar incident as in Rochester, N.Y., last month in which 14 were wounded and two killed during a shooting rampage at a large backyard party.

Next, a Flats’ block watch leader expressed concerns about a man living under a nearby bridge. She said he is “menacing” as he follows people and mutters, and screams at night.

She asked what can be done to get him help.

“It seems there is something going on,” she said.

Alexandra Abboud, the city’s new victims’ assistance coordinator, will be contacted. Trained mental health first responders, and the zone’s mental health team, will also look into the matter.

In other news, Ian Reynolds introduced himself as the city’s new disruptive properties coordinator. Contact him if you are in need of assistance.

Mr. Reynolds is also the new Safer Together liaison.

Next, Jay Gilmer, STOP The Violence Coordinator and Police Intern Program Coordinator, Pittsburgh Dept. of Public Safety, provided information on the volunteer MAD DADS organization. 

The group is comprised of community fathers whose mission is to maintain safer communities while impacting the issues of drugs, gangs, and violence. Members often hang out on the corner with the goal of providing mentorship. 

Let him or Ms. Style know if you are interested in volunteering.

Mr. Gilmer also provided information on a free virtual workshop series on coping with violence.

The kickoff session will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 10 with keynote speaker and group violence intervention coordinator Rev. Cornell Jones.

The sessions, Children’s Responses to Violence, and Self-Care During Anxious Times, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on, respectively, Jan. 9 and Feb. 13, 2021. Call 412-807-1611 to register.

Next, Roy Blankenship, of the Hilltop Alliance, said that Fresh Fridays will be held the second Friday of each month into December. Residents should bring I.D. although it may not necessarily be needed.

Ms. Style announced internships are open in the City of Pittsburgh. Visit: pghjobs.net for more information.

Mr. Kraus reminded everyone to vote on Election Day. All polls are expected to be open.

The next Z3PSC meeting will be on Oct. 19. The guest speaker will be police Chief Scott Schubert.

 

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