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By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

Z3PSC learns about 311, crime trends

 

Last updated 11/1/2022 at 7:53pm



The October meeting of the Zone 3 Public Safety Council (Z3PSC) took place on October 27 and featured presentations concerning 311 and Zone crime trends.

Liz Style, president of the Z3PSC, called the meeting to order on Zoom and introduced Wendy Urbanic, manager of 311 for the City of Pittsburgh.

Ms. Urbanic said she has been with the 311 call center since it opened in October of 2006. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and also takes requests/complaints through its website, https://pittsburghpa.gov/311; mobile app, MyBurgh; and, Twitter account, @pgh311. All contacts are kept confidential.

Currently, all 311 team members are working from home, but calls are still being recorded. Ms. Urbanic said she is able to review those calls in cases where further investigation is warranted. She also has a dashboard that lets her see when team members are on calls.

In the upcoming budget proposed by the Ganey Administration, the 311 call center will be moved from the Department of Innovation & Performance to the Mayor’s Office under Neighborhood Services. She said the move will help “tighten the back end” and hopefully provide a more realistic time callers may receive for resolution of their problems.

She explained currently the Department of Permits, Licenses & Inspections is well integrated with 311. When a complaint come in an inspector visits the problem property, usually within three to five days. If a violation is found, a letter is sent out immediately giving the property owner 15 to 30 days to correct the violation.

The inspector makes a second visit after the time has expired to see if the violation has been corrected. If it is still uncorrected, another violation letter is sent with a time to have it corrected.

When the inspector visits the property for the third time, if the violation still exists, the matter then goes to court.

Ms. Urbanic said if there are repeated calls concerning the same violation, subsequent calls are attached to the original call. With all the calls linked they only have to respond to the parent call for all callers to be notified.

She said the Department of Mobility & Infrastructure is integrated in a similar manner to PL&I.

Ms. Style said the council has been getting questions concerning the safety of children walking to school, particularly those attending Pittsburgh Arlington PreK-6. She asked if it was appropriate to call 311 with those type of concerns.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Urbanic replied explaining one of Mayor Ed Ganey’s initiatives is to make the streets and sidewalks safe for everyone.

Later asked about what residents should do if they don’t get a reply with a resolution to the problem, Ms. Urbanic said for them to call or email with the reference number.

One issue residents may have is with self-reporting through the website or mobile app. Through those systems, the complainant has to choose what kind of issue it is and it is automatically routed to that department. If the wrong issue is picked, it is sent to the wrong department.

Ms. Urbanic says they try to monitor requests and try to fix the issue before it goes out.

“If you’re not getting a response, we need to know,” she said.

Segueing into school crossing guards, Donna McManus, crossing guard supervisor for the city, said there are not enough of the guards in the city. Currently, the city has budgeted for 82 guards but has only filled 62 positions.

The city recently dropped the driver’s license requirement to be a crossing guard. Ms. McManus also said crossing guards may ride public transportation for free when they are in uniform.

She said with the shortage of crossing guards, the city asked Pittsburgh Public Schools to condense as many as nine street corners. So far, PPS has only condensed one, at Brownsville Road and Bausman Street where they are adding a crossing guard.

Ms. McManus said an unintended consequence of raising the distance kids can walk to school from 1.5 miles to 2 miles has been traffic jams. It was expected that the kids would walk the extra distance, but they’ve found more parents driving their children, creating massive traffic jams around some schools.

She said a safety plan will have to be put in place for the benefit of the students, parents and teachers at the schools. The answer isn’t for the crossing guards to be traffic cops she said.

In the crime trends report, Lt. Mark Rush, Zone 3 evening supervisor, said the commander gets the 311 requests for police and designates them to the correct shift. Individual officers will then make two or three attempts over several days to observe the violation, such as running stop signs or speeding. A report is then filed and sent back to 311.

Lt. Rush provided some statistics comparing last year and this year to date for the same period in several crime categories:

Rape: 2021, 1; 2022, 3

Arson: 2021, 6; 2022, 0

Burglary: 2021, 152; 2022, 151

Overdose Deaths: 2021, 13; 2022, 9

Shots Fired: 2021, 39; 2022, 86

Thefts from Vehicles: 2021, 75; 2022, 193

Aggravated Assaults: 2021, 115; 2022, 94

He said the Thefts from Vehicles highest numbers are in Mt. Washington and South Side. A big concern is that people from outside the area are coming and leaving firearms in unlocked vehicles. The firearms are then taken from the vehicles and later used in crimes.

In other Z3PSC business, Ms. Style said each year the council receives $1,000 from City Council. In prior years, the council used the funding to purchase materials to be distributed at community meetings and events to increase participation in the council and for office supplies.

This year members of the council have decided to use the funding to purchase gloves and mittens for students in several area schools. Although there are four preK-6 schools in the area, the schools with the greatest need for warm gloves and mittens was determined to be Arlington and Grandview.

Most of the money will be used at the Arlington School with the remainder going to Grandview.

Ms. Style said next year they may reevaluate and look to donating to Concord and Phillips schools.

The next Z3PSC meeting will be via Zoom on November 17 with David Jones, assistant director of Community Affairs in the Department of Public Safety. Joining him will be additional members in the department.

 

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