Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Community-Driven Safety Initiatives

The following is an account of the most recent Safe Neighborhoods Network meeting by Sheraden resident Greg Hancock.
The evening of June 27th, I was able to attend the Safe Neighborhoods Network meeting held at PCRG's Centre Avenenue office in the Hill District. Andy Quayle, a dispatcher from the Munhall Police Department, spoke about how they are getting residents involved in their community through online social networking, primarily Facebook. They are having great success with residents contributing to the site and have two officers on staff that are responsible for updating the site continuously. There is a page that shows at a glance all reported crime stats for the month, as well as predators that live in the neighborhood, including their photo, name and address. Most of the posted comments are upbeat and positive. The MPD does use this site to harvest information to help with ongoing investigations and the sort. It would be nice if a similar tool could be developed for Sheraden.

Rebekkah Ranallo from Oakland Planning and Development Corporation was also on hand to talk about Oakwatch, a community-based code enforcement project where residents work with Pittsburgh's Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) as well as the mayors 311 contact line. They identify and prioritize housing and property violations. By being in the neighborhood, they can keep a constant eye on the progress of how the city is dealing with bringing resolution to these violations. They harvest a great deal of data which helps to streamline the process, from citations to the property owners and court dates, expediting clean-up and code violation rehab. They are also represented in numbers at the court proceedings to give testimony. Once again, there is power in numbers! They group properties by violation and then grade them from the worst offenders to the lesser. They always perform outreach to the property owner prior to any official actions being taken. This process is not to harass, but to inform the property owner about what they need to do in order to avoid citations or fines. This is another great idea for Sheraden to adopt. As we all know, Oakland is a standout community when it comes to the overall appearance. And remember, along with a beautiful community comes higher property values.

The 311 web address is: https//www.pittsburghpa.gov/311/form
If you use this method to inform the city of violations, you will get an auto response email from the city with the confirmation/tracking number for the complaint. This number can be used to track the city's progress on bringing about resolution to the complaint.

Last but not least, a representative from CeaseFirePA was in attendance to inform us about their next community gathering entitled "Killing Gun Violence: Taking Back Our Communities One Action at a Time." The event is being held to discuss and act upon community-based legislative strategies to end gun violence This will be held on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013 from 6:30-8:00 pm, at the Limbach Community Center located at 816 Tripoli Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Everyone is encouraged to attend. The Safe Neighborhoods Network had Ron Conroy from CeaseFirePA in to speak a month or so ago at PCRG. They are a wealth of information and give citizens hope in curbing gun-related violence in our neighborhoods. 

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