South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

School safety program discussed at Zone 3 safety council meeting


Last updated 8/9/2022 at 2:49pm

The July 28 Zoom meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC) began with memories of former board secretary/block watch development and support committee chair Donna Williams, who died on July 19.

Z3PSC President Liz Style said she would be missed as Ms. Style often called her for advice.

"Donna was just a swell person," said Judy Hackel, noting she also dressed as Mrs. Santa Claus at holiday events for children.

"She definitely will be missed," she said.

"She was always there to answer questions," said Sharlee Ellison of Ms. Williams at Knoxville Community Council meetings.

Barbara Rudiak, president of the South Side Community Council (SSCC), recalled that Ms. Style brought Ms. Williams to a SSCC block watch to share news of her work on a Carrick block watch.

"She was always a good resource for us," said Ms. Rudiak.

State Rep. Jessica Benham said Ms. Williams knew her as a youngster, and still called her "Jessie."

She agreed with the others that Ms. Williams will be missed.

Next, Cecelia Ware, executive director of Infinite Lifestyle Solutions, Inc., spoke on the "Safe Passages Program: Providing Safety and Safe Passages Before and After School."

Infinite Lifestyle Solutions is a nonprofit organization founded by Ms. Ware. It provides violence prevention, intervention, and trauma healing services through restorative practices and art therapy.

Its programs include: Restorative Safe Passages, Saving Our Sons & Daughters, Teen Dating Violence Protection, and Teen Support.

Restorative Safe Passages is designed to decrease community violence among students and provide safety and safe passages before and after school. It builds positive relationships among students, adults, and police officers.

The program originated from a community meeting in Brighton Heights. Members had viewed fights after school and more.

Ms. Ware talked to Sgt. Tiffany Costa, who said a program in Chicago addressed these issues.

"We took some of the program from Chicago and added a restorative piece," Ms. Ware said.

Infinite Lifestyle Solutions was founded by Ms. Ware in 2016 after her son was shot on a basketball court on the North Side. 

Experiencing her struggles with her son surviving his trauma and transitioning back into school, she saw how this had impacted the whole family.

Utilizing her nursing background in behavioral health, she became a licensed trainer of restorative practices partnering with the Pittsburgh Public School, Woodland Hills School, and Propel School Districts.

Regarding gun violence, Ms. Ware said that since the pandemic, violence is up at John Morrow, Perry, Westinghouse, Langley, and Brashear schools.

Parents, teachers, students, and the community report an increase in anxiety as a result of gun violence and school violence.

Action steps include: hiring a program coordinator and outreach worker; presenting the program at all public safety council meetings; recruiting volunteers; meeting with John Tokarski of the city's Dept. of Public Safety about training volunteers in conflict resolution; and mapping out safe walking routes and developing signage.

To a question of how schools are chosen, Ms. Ware said she asks Assistant Chief Lavonnie Bickerstaff and Sgt. Tiffany Costa.

According to gun safety data, there were 113 total shots-related calls in Brighton Heights in 2019-2021.

"We want to teach [youngsters] how to avoid conflict before it gets to this point [gun usage]," Ms. Ware said.

Expressing concern about Grandview and the new Arlington neighborhood schools, Ms. Ellison said she is worried about students getting there safely on unsafe roads.

Ms. Ware said she will look into what can be done, and will bring volunteers.

Next, attendees were asked to report on the good things occurring in their neighborhoods.

In Allentown, a new distillery is coming.

In Knoxville, Mayor Ed Gainey will do a walk-thru in mid-August.

In Mt. Oliver City, funding was received from a Love Your Block grant.

In the South Side Flats, Goatfest, featuring vendors, entertainment, and more, was scheduled to be held on July 30 at the Arlington ball field. 

Many of the Zone 3 neighborhoods planned to celebrate National Night Out (NNO) on Aug. 2

The annual national event is designed to advance the importance of neighborhood unity and community-public safety relationships, and is held locally in various neighborhoods as porch gatherings, block parties, festivals, and more.

In Z3PSC updates, 7 National Night Out events were planned in the zone.

A national new suicide hot line can be reached by calling 988.

In his report, Zone 3 Commander John Fisher said the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) are responsible for the safety of all students, door-to-door. While the police are also watching out, the ultimate responsibility lies with the PPS.

He reported that bullying in Arlington Park is an on-going investigation.

He also reported the weekend Carson St. corridor has been quiet recently. He and the district attorney presented concerns to the owner of the nightclub Foxtail and its Skybar, who then agreed to close temporarily.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said it is his understanding that the district attorney must permit it to reopen.

The after-hours club at 300 Brownsville Rd. has been closed by the district attorney and the LCB. The landlord agreed to vacate the lease. There had been shootings at the site.

The commander reported there have been 10 homicides, to date, in Zone 3. The total in Pittsburgh is 40. Both numbers are up from last year.

In Zone 3, there have been 16 aggravated assaults with guns. That number is down in the zone, while aggravated assaults with guns is up in the city.

Regarding the problematic Embr bar at 153 S. 18th St., Commander Fisher said the owners and district attorney met. There will be a police presence there at 2 a.m. when it closes.

Mr. Kraus said it is his understanding the bar will close at midnight, with patrons out by 1 a.m.

In questions-and-answers, an attendee said 18-wheelers are a big problem when children are walking on Bausman St. Speeders are also an issue. She calls 311, but help never arrives.

When Bausman St. became a detour last summer more motorists became aware of it as a shortcut.

Commander Fisher said he would talk to the traffic division.

The city's neighborhood services manager, Rebekkah Ranallo, said the city is aware of the matter, and that signs need to be erected about the 18-wheelers. The Dept. of Mobility and Infrastructure, or DOMI, erects the signs.

A Mt. Oliver City resident said abandoned cars are a problem. She asked if the block watch meeting could receive a crime report.

Commander Fisher said to let him know the date and time of the meeting, and he would send a resource officer.

Ms. Rudiak said Sunday evenings on East Carson St. are rough. She asked if the patrols on Sundays are as significant as on Fridays and Saturdays.

The commander said yes.

Next, Mr. Kraus updated attendees on PennDOT's $17.45 million East Carson St. project that is intended to improve safety. 

Milling and paving operations, requiring a single-lane restriction in each direction on East Carson St., will occur between South 23rd St. and South 33rd St., Monday through Saturday, from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. until August 20.

The project includes milling and resurfacing, signage and signal upgrades, bump-outs, high visibility crosswalks, concrete pavement patching, drainage, guide rail, ADA ramps, curb and sidewalk, pavement markings and more along the 2.5-mile stretch of East Carson St. between the Smithfield St. Bridge and 33rd St.

Mr. Kraus said the project should be completed in early Fall.

Also occurring at this time is the $4-6 million 18th St. signals upgrade project for pedestrian safety.

The intersections will be redesigned at Sarah St., Jane St., Mary St., Josephine St., Mission St., Arlington Ave., and Amanda St. The traffic signal upgrades include: gloss black signal poles; audible countdown pedestrian signals; and more.

Next, Rep. Benham reported a bill just passed in Harrisburg gives police more enforcement power regarding ATVs and dirt bikes, such as the vehicles are not allowed on city property and more.

The state's new fireworks law limits the timeframe for using fireworks from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. - except on July 2, 3, and 4 and December 31, when consumer fireworks may be used until 1 a.m. the following day.

To a question about the rebuilding of the Dept. of Public Works' (DPW) 4th Division site in Knoxville, Mr. Kraus said he would research the plan and bring it to the next Z3PSC meeting.

There will be no Z3PSC meeting in August. 

The next meeting will be on September 22 on Zoom, and feature "Keeping Students Safe: A Presentation of Student Safety and School Security."


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