Disruptive properties in the city are getting additional attention
Last updated 4/7/2022 at 8:46am
The March 24 monthly meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC) featured guest speaker Angela Brundage, the new administrative assistant of Disruptive Properties in the city's Department of Public Safety.
Ms. Brundage said Disruptive Properties is in a period of transition as it is under major transformation. The office has not been operational since 2016.
But residents should continue to call 311 or 911 for complaints.
A property is declared "disruptive" after it has received three notices of disruptive activity within a one-year window.
Disruptive activities include: unlicensed liquor sales, dogs at large, excessively high grass and refuse, disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, corruption of minors, cruelty to animals, possession of a firearm by a minor, and more.
Ms. Brundage said a resident is allowed up to five pets; any amount over five and the situation is classified as disruptive. To avoid that, the owner should call Animal Control for a permit.
Upon being cited for any of the disruptive violations, the property owner can appeal the Notice of Disruptive Activity to the Disruptive Properties Appeal Board comprised of six residents, or one from each zone.
If the Board overturns the Notice of Disruptive Activity, it does not count against the property as one of the requisite "three strikes" needed to declare the property disruptive.
Assistant Chief of Operations Linda Barone, Bureau of Police, said in the past, complaints to 911, 311, Dept. of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections (PLI), and from neighbors would generate a report that would go to the Dept. of Public Safety.
Once that occurs, letters would be sent to owners to inform them of the complaints, and action would be taken if the disruptive activities continue.
The process regarding owners was: education; scheduling a hearing; and, if more complaints, the level of action taken by the city will be elevated.
An attendee asked if the complaint process will begin with old complaints, or start anew.
Ms. Brundage said the office cannot go back years, but any calls to 911 or 311 currently received will be addressed.
However, Ms. Barone said old complaints can be brought up to support documentation there have been problems at a property for many years.
To a question about rubbish put out early, Ms. Brundage said PLI takes the matter to the magistrate. But Disruptive Properties takes a different avenue.
An attendee asked if city agencies have a "check box" to send complaints to Disruptive Properties. Ms. Brundage said the police do, but she is unsure of other agencies.
If she does not know an answer, she will have a manager help her out, she said.
An attendee said she feels when she calls 311 the matter goes into a "black hole."
City Councilman Bruce Kraus said the 3rd District exceeds the 50 percent rental mark, which the city as a whole has also exceeded.
Properties are owned by out-of-state LLCs and are impossible to contact, resulting in chronic frustration with quality-of-life issues on a daily basis, he said.
If city council needs to do anything to tweak the Disruptive Properties ordinance, let us know, he said.
An attendee commented, in the past, Disruptive Properties hearings were not publicized. Will they be publicized now and appear in a listing?
Ms. Brundage said she will ask her director.
Zone 3 Commander John Fisher said potential nuisance properties cross his desk, and he makes a recommendation if a matter falls under nuisance properties, such as a fight in a bar.
But if it happens in front of a bar, he will not necessarily label it as a nuisance property.
Ms. Brundage said abandoned vehicles and boats are disruptive properties if on someone's property. Call 311 to report.
For dogs and trash, call 311 and Disruptive Properties will address. But loud noises and racing cars will involve police.
For questions, contact the Department of Public Safety at 412-255-4789.
In updates, Z3PSC President Liz Style, who served as meeting facilitator, informed newcomers the Z3PSC meets monthly on Zoom.
Before COVID, two city-wide zone meetings were held annually. There may be one this fall, she said.
Next, Roy Blankenship said he works with the Property Stabilization Program of the Hilltop Alliance, adding residents need to be patient when it comes to action being taken on troublesome properties.
Keep filing 311 reports, and call the police when necessary.
He recommends "keeping the momentum going with filing reports."
Next, Ms. Barone reported the city has job openings. See: pghjobs.net
In his report, Commander Fisher said there have been five homicides so far this year in Zone 3. Of those, four were gun-related and the other involved a knife.
There have also been five aggravated assaults to date this year in which gunshots were involved but no one died.
Homicides and aggravated assaults are up from last year across the city.
Regarding gun violence this summer, the commander said there is no way for the police to prevent that.
"We can't be everywhere at once," he said.
The acts of violence tend to be committed by teens to those aged mid-20s, he said.
On the topic of dirt bikes and quads, he said the police have a "no chase" policy. At prior meetings, it has been stated the police cannot risk injuries by having someone run over during a pursuit. A driver may also die in a pursuit.
If anyone sees these vehicles on streets, call 911 or email the commander the names and addresses of the riders. Police will stop by their homes, which seems to curtail the activity a bit, he said.
An attendee next commented on the businesses on Carson St., and someone must know what is attracting the violence.
State Rep. Jessica Benham said any time an area draws large groups there are issues on how to address it, and that she and Mr. Kraus are working on it.
There are "complicated questions" she said.
But much needs to be done on the state level regarding guns and more, she said.
Commander Fisher said a shooting in South Side could be sparked simply by two men grazing against each other. A lot of men there have permits to carry guns, he said.
"Guns and alcohol never mix," he said.
Mr. Kraus said there will never be enough police officers to stop violent encounters. The intervention must be with businesses that draw those with guns.
He also said cities are at the end as these issues roll down from the federal and state levels.
Mr. Kraus said council passed a straw purchasing ordinance, but the state gave the NRA the right to sue. Straw purchasing is for someone to buy a firearm for someone else who cannot pass the background check.
Change needs to happen on the federal and state levels, he said.
"It has gone too far," he said.
In other news, PennDot expects work to begin in April on the Fern Hollow Bridge which collapsed in January. It is expected to be completed in a year or a year-and-a-half.
A senior fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 6 in the Brentwood Civic Center parking lot.
In news of CeaseFirePA, the largest and longest-serving anti-gun violence group in Pennsylvania, April 26 will be Gun Safety Advocacy Day in Harrisburg to demand action on stronger gun laws. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Free bus transportation to Harrisburg will be provided.
CeaseFirePA will be meeting with lawmakers and rallying on the front steps of the State Capitol in a stand against gun violence.
To register to participate, visit: https://secure.everyaction.com/u1PTByVLxEiWvI77d2SSBg2
For more information on CeaseFirePA, visit: https://www.ceasefirepa.org/about-us/ .
The next Z3PSC meeting will be at 6 p.m. on April 28. Ahead of meetings, questions on any public safety/quality of life issue may be sent to: zone3PSC1@gmail.com.