South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Quads, speakeasies discussed at Zone 3 Nov. council meeting

 

November 24, 2020



The last Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC) meeting of 2020 on Nov. 16 featured a year-end report and plans for 2021.

The meeting began with news that Zone 3 police Commander Karen Dixon will be returning Nov. 30, but is retiring in early January.

Z3PSC president Liz Style next called for ideas on what participants would like to see at meetings next year.

She then quickly reviewed the goals set last year for 2020. They included holding seven open general meetings, with guest speakers at four of them; and also, to hold two board meetings.

What actually occurred in 2020 were eight meetings, with three having guest speakers.

Those speakers/dates were: Diane Powell, Pittsburgh Outreach Chair, Black Women for Positive Change, on Aug. 17; Reverend Eileen O. Smith, director of the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace (SPCP), and Richard Carrington, team leader of the South Pittsburgh Peacemakers (SPP), which is an initiative of the SPCP, on Sept. 21; and Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott E. Schubert, Commander Eric Holmes, Chief of Staff and Commander, Intelligence Unit, and Sgt. Tiffany Kline Costa, Community Affairs Unit, on Oct. 19.

The membership outreach strategy also continued this year on social media and elsewhere.

Ms. Style said the goal is one project a year. For instance, in 2018, instructions on setting up a block watch were compiled, with a hardcopy available today.

In 2019, the annul family-oriented Picnic with Police was instituted.

In 2021 the hope is to continue to develop partnerships, such as with the Allentown CDC Public Safety Committee, to support zone-wide educational sessions throughout the year. 

This could not be done this year due to COVID. Zoom meetings on the topic are a possibility next year.

Another goal for 2021 is to rewrite the bylaws, an activity blocked in 2020 by COVID.

Ms. Style said the hope is to receive $2,000 again from city council. While the request is in, “the budget process is going to be very tight this year,” she said.

The Z3PSC also received a grant in 2020 from the Love My Neighbor program to support the Picnic with Police, which was never held due to COVID. The $1,460 has yet to be used.

Ms. Style asked if there were any other ideas for the future.

She said last month she tried to get someone for this meeting from the Mayor’s Community Task Force on Police Reform. She was not successful, but hopes to have someone here in 2021.

In light of expected city budget issues due to COVID, she will also try to have someone come to a meeting in 2021 to address budget issues, including how public safety cuts would impact Zone 3 residents.

Next, Rob Conroy, of CeaseFirePA, discussed seeking an end to gun violence through education, coalition building, and advocacy, which is the organization’s mission.

He said he is hoping for a gun safety majority in our state legislature next year.

Among the three pieces of legislation CeaseFirePA would like to see passed is extreme risk protection orders which would allow law enforcement officials and family members to temporarily remove firearms from someone at risk of harming themselves or others during a crisis.

CeaseFirePA would also like the loophole closed which allows long guns to be sold in the state without a background check if sold by a private seller.

Another desired piece of legislation is a statewide reporting requirement of lost or stolen firearms within 72 hours. It addresses those who illegally transfer guns, he said.

Next, police Lieutenant Louis Caporali, who is in charge of Zone 3 until Commander Dixon returns, reported on local shootings.

He said the night before there was a fatal shooting in the 2000 block of Brownsville Rd. While it is under investigation, it does not look random.

A shooting on Beltzhoover Avenue a few weeks ago left three people dead. Both shooters were in one vehicle so a conflict is begin investigated.

Two juveniles were arrested for a shooting on Reifert St. on Oct. 3.

In South Side on Oct. 23 two men were shot while walking down the street.

No one was hurt when a man ran into the Rochelle Towers at 107 Knox Ave. with a firearm. The man, gun, and drugs were seized.

The police are still dealing with the unlicensed speakeasies for those who want to socialize/drink after 11 p.m. in defiance of COVID restrictions. None has a license to sell alcohol.

He said the one on Brownsville Rd. in Carrick has not been operating recently. Its fines total about $50,000.

The speakeasy in the former American Legion in the 1700 block of Arlington Ave. was served search warrants. The Fire Department and Health Department investigated; citations were issued.

Fines total about $10,000.

“The owner continues to operate in defiance,” he said. 

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

He planned to meet with the district attorney the next day about the speakeasies.

Lt. Caporali also reported a speakeasy at 38 Mt. Oliver St. that caught fire a month ago is under investigation. The problem was electrical and not intentional, he said.

Next, regarding speeding motorcycles and illegal quads on East Carson St. and elsewhere, he said they have been stopped and cited, and the vehicles taken away.

A problem with identification of quads is there are no license plates. Police must review videos and talk to neighbors.

“We’re doing the best we can. They know we can’t chase them,” Lt. Caporali said. He has said previously the police cannot risk injuries by having someone run over during a pursuit. A driver may also die in a pursuit.

Large, organized bike outings of 200-300 bikers on city streets can also be a problem, he said, as they know policing boundaries and taunt the officers.

“It’s like a big game to them,” he said.

While most of the riders in Carrick are juveniles, the ones in South Side are adults.

While the juveniles say they would ride elsewhere if there was a designated place to do so, Lt. Caporali said it is “very difficult” to set aside a place in the city to ride due to liability.

In questions for the lieutenant, it was noted Church Ave. residents have spotted strangers consistently going down a nearby alley. They called it into police, but are not sure of the outcome.

Lt. Caporali said they are drug users who are getting into vacant homes. If there is an emergency at a vacant house, like windows are broken into, call 911. With 311, the police receive the messages days later.

To a question about Airbnbs, he said they are not illegal. Airbnb is an online company which provides a platform for members to rent out their properties or rooms to guests.

The lieutenant said to call 911 if the renters are loud or engage in illegalities, and citations will be issued.

Bob Charland, of the office of city Councilman Bruce Kraus, said to visit “neighborhood concerns” on the Airbnb website to list complaints.

To a question about the process for selecting a new Zone 3 commander in light of the pending retirement of Commander Dixon, Lt. Caporali said the top five candidates are shadowing a commander now to learn the duties. A few commanders are expected to retire in early 2021, he said.

Lt. Caporali also announced that a traffic calming study will be conducted on Maytide St. The busy thruway would be closed for two days between Brownsville Rd. and Route 51 to install the equipment.

The final comments came from Ian Reynolds, the “Safer Together” coordinator, Dept. of Public Safety, regarding Thanksgiving.

He reported the annual Thanksgiving “Get Stuffed With Love” program, to ensure no city resident goes without a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, will be held again this year. 

There are no income or age requirements. Everyone in need is eligible to receive a free, warm meal delivered to their residence. Call a zone police station to register.

Zone 3 residents should call community relations Officer Christine Luffey at 412-488-8425 to register.

The next Z3PSC meeting will be at 6 p.m. on Jan. 18, 2021. 

 

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