Zone 3 council hears crime data, neighborhood issues
March 1, 2022
The February 24 monthly meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC) featured guest speaker Heath C. Johnson, Ph.D., crime analysis coordinator, crime analysis unit, Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.
Z3PSC President Liz Style served as meeting facilitator.
Mr. Johnson, who is a Zone 3 resident, said he is not a police officer. Rather, he runs a team of analysts in the Police Bureau who compile reports to help make decision making data driven.
The team also provides data to community groups.
In his "Annual Crime Statistics Comparisons" presentation, he explained that Part I violent crimes include homicide/murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
Part I property crimes include burglary, theft, vehicle theft, and arson.
Part II crimes include forgery, fraud, prostitution, sex offense, and more.
The 294 violent crimes in 2021 consist of: 11 homicides; 7 rapes; 88 robberies; and 188 aggravated assaults.
There were 1156 total Part I property crimes in 2021 in Zone 3, which represents a one percent increase over 2020. The 1156 property crimes consist of: 169 burglaries; 841 thefts; 116 vehicle thefts; and 30 arsons.
There were 3,023 total Part II crime incidents in 2021 in Zone 3, which represents a 14 percent increase over 2020. DUIs rose 58 percent from 97 in 2020 to 153 in 2021.
Mr. Johnson said the takeaways from the data include: Violent crime has increased. While it is not a trend specific to Zone 3 or the city, it matches national trends.
Another takeaway: Crime is concentrated in the Flats and sections of the Hilltop.
There is also a troubling increase in fraud reports, he said, urging everyone to be cautious when it comes to protecting our personal information.
To a question from Ms. Style on how community groups can access information related to their neighborhoods, he said the annual police reports can be found on-line.
Another source of local crime data is: https://pittsburghpa.gov/publicsafety/crime-data.
Next, Ms. Style reported she sent a congratulatory note to Lee Schmidt as the city's new public safety director. He previously served as acting public safety director and, before that, assistant director of operations and administration in Public Safety.
He also worked for 20 years as a paramedic in the suburbs.
Next, Reverend Justine Jones, the new chaplain for the South Pittsburgh Peacemakers, reported the Peacemakers received a grant from the Pittsburgh Steelers. She also said a virtual workshop will be held on March 18.
In his report, Commander John Fisher said a boarded-up property on Zara St. in Knoxville is scheduled for demolition.
Bob Charland, from Councilman Bruce Kraus' office, said there is another property on Zara St. which is used to store illegal property, and is a nuisance to neighbors. People, who are not the owners, come and go from the property at all hours.
The commander said the police cannot go in with only that information as something concrete is needed.
A Knoxville resident said numerous calls were made to the police about the property, and officers showed up. But seniors do not feel safe due to the traffic in and out of the house. When officers pull up, the people inside run out the back.
The block is full of seniors and children, and nothing is being done, she said.
Commander Fisher said one call about the property last fall is all he has at this point, but he will check again. He can have detectives watch the property, he said.
To a question of what can be done to get a warrant, the commander said surveillance must be conducted. Residents who observe people taking boxes of televisions, and more, into the house need to call 911.
Councilman Bruce Kraus said it helps if apartment owners allow the police to look at surveillance videos.
"There are historically problematic properties," he said of the neighborhood.
Mr. Charland said the neighborhood could lose the pre-school across the street as the parents are afraid to drop their children off. Parents observe pot smoking in the streets.
A Knoxville resident said the area is an embarrassment as there is garbage strewn about and drug activity.
"They are nothing but a nuisance," she said of some properties.
The commander said to call 911 if dropping children off and witness marijuana smoking.
He said the police know the property owners and will speak with them. But loitering and strewn trash and building maintenance are not police issues.
To a question about the Carson St. safety lane which has not been set up on weekends lately, he said the police can tag, but that he does not have the manpower to remain there all night.
Mr. Kraus said the lane is there to protect police officers and safety vehicles. The street is so narrow there that the EMS and officers could not get through in an emergency. For that reason, it needs clear at all times.
Mr. Kraus said the safety lane has been there for five years, and that he would meet with nighttime economy manager Allison Harnden and the new public safety director, Mr. Schmidt, to discuss the situation.
On the issue of drag racing, Commander Fisher said he received a complaint about car clubs doing "burn-outs" on streets. He told supervisors he wants them at the scenes when another complaint comes in.
Regarding Carrick High School, students gather at shopping areas by the school. A high percentage of students are truant, he said. He will meet with school officials to help come up with a solution.
An attendee said she called numerous times about an abandoned large, red trailer on Rectenwald St. that has not moved in about five years.
Commander Fisher said abandoned vehicles are dealt with following a process set by state law, beginning with sending letters to owners. Abandoned boats follow the same process.
State Rep. Jessica Benham said she looked in the problem, which falls under protection for a person's property.
"It is difficult to make the change from a Constitutional perspective," she said.
The final speaker was CeaseFirePA Western Pennsylvania manager Josh Fleitman. CeaseFirePA is the largest and longest-serving anti-gun violence group in Pennsylvania.
He said he would be attending the Z3PSC meetings regularly.
Mr. Fleitman reported there are gun dealers who violate federal law and are allowed to stay open. He asked attendees to tell the ATF to crack down on rogue gun stores that break the law at: https://ceasefirepa.salsalabs.org/ATFIllegalGunSales/index.html
April 26 will be Gun Safety Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to demand action on stronger gun laws. Free bus transportation to Harrisburg will be provided.
To register, visit: https://secure.everyaction.com/u1PTByVLxEiWvI77d2SSBg2
For more information on CeaseFirePA, visit: https://www.ceasefirepa.org/about-us/ .
Mr. Fleitman can be contacted at: Josh.Fleitman@ceasefirepa.org .
The next Z3PSC meeting will be at 6 p.m. on March. 24 via Zoom with the guest speaker to be determined. Ahead of meetings, questions on any public safety/quality of life issue may be sent to: zone3PSC1@gmail. com.