Tuesday, October 09, 2007

South Side Meeting gets Kraus speaking like G.W. Bush -- quote: "Shock and Awe" for South Side -- oh my gosh

Monday night's Community Council meeting was interesting. It was yet another community meeting on the South Side. A South Pgh Reporter reporter was there, so next week we'll get a review from his news in that weekly newspaper.

At the meeting we got to visit with another slew of police officers. Rather than sending one police officer to the South Side meetings, we get four. That's up from two in the past. Next month, who knows, six officers might be attending.

When and if Bruce Kraus becomes city councilman -- it appears we'll have neighborhood meetings where the whole darn shift is taken off the streets and pulled into these meeting with the neighborhood groups.

At least the police chief wasn't attending tonight. So, there is some good news.

I blogged about this in the past. My advice: When a member of the police force attends a meeting -- come alone. Don't bring back up. The seniors and concerned citizens are not going to cause too much trouble.

Pie was served at tonight's meeting -- wonderful pies. So good. Really.

Another presenter at the meeting was the neighborhood coordinator from Mayor Luke's office. She mentioned a few of the initiatives the mayor's office was working on. For two or three of them -- only one person knew what the heck she was talking about. Her big point, "It is all about 'communication.'" Blah, blah, blah.

I made sure she knew what I felt about the disconnect in communication with the still closed indoor ice rink in the big park on the South Side. That abandoned building was left to die by the Penguins and now three different mayors. Do not try to say, "It is NOT just the mayor's fault." Not buying it.

The mayor has the keys to the building. The mayor's office has blocked its reuse. Proposals were delivered. The cooperation from the mayor's office stinks.

"I'll look into it," she said. Today I'm going to send an 'open letter to the SSLDC.'

In the headline of the night, the police shared impressions of past months. Some important quality of life trends have been unfolding. Since April of 2007, the South Side has been blessed (or cursed) to have a flood of new officers working extra shifts and swarming the neighborhoods in the weekend nights. Up to 18 officers, often many more than 12, have been working Fridays and Saturdays on East Carson Street and flowing in and out of the back streets too. These officers, some in uniform, some not, have been dishing out tickets, citations and arrests. They've been busy throughout the greater neighborhood. DUI check points, undercover cops, beat cops, duty police (as usual at bars), etc., etc.

From planning-urban

In these past months, there have been 810 tickets given to pissing bar patrons. Here, we're drawing attention to guys who piss in public. Sorry for the toilet talk, but these folks are taking care of business without being in a private toilet.

The count is at 810, as of last night. I propose that the South Side have a big harry party at the end of a public count-down for the luck 1,000th customer who gets a urination citation. Perhaps the prize could be a free rectal exam at South Side Hospital. At the going rate, the winner could be found between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

Taking a leak on a South Side Street, in an alley, behind a car, next to a porch, in some bushes or on a house can cost $300 or more. Its a stiff penalty, if you know what I mean.

Despite the added enforcement officers on the streets -- there has no sign of any improvement. They've been dishing out tickets after tickets -- and there isn't any difference. The police can't get a grip on the problem and stop the flow of public urination, despite attempts to curb such behaviors. This gives new meaning to the age old saying, "When you gotta go, you gotta go." At least there is a new verse, "Hi officer."

Likewise, all the talk about graffiti in recent weeks, months and years has netted no changes. They've been really trying to crack down on graffiti. But, guess what -- nothing has changed. Today the graffiti problem is as bad as it has ever been. Bruce Kraus has been a knight in shinning armor put here to slay graffiti -- and he's been without any impact.

Public urination, graffiti, DUIs, fights, vandalism, noise, house parties and an array of other nasty behaviors have not been impacted by the super-duper extra crack down of police throughout the neighborhoods -- so say the police.

However, one area has improved. Only one. The police are reported that improvements have been made with open container violations. Fewer people are walking the streets with open bottles and cans of beer.

Next for the goons wishing heavy handed enforcement are speed traps on the Parkway East and Route 28. They will be deployed in rush hour and days after rock slides as traffic never moves faster than 5 miles per hour. (giggle)

If I'm controller, this situation opens up plenty of conversations and research. I want to know a lot more -- as controller. I'd love to audit the crime reports, the work hours, police overtime, paid income from tickets/citations, the penalties delivered, the judge-by-judge breakdowns of fines. This presents a big can of worms, in more ways than one. Performance isn't being measured with a direct connection to priorities and quality of life benchmarks.

How much is the city taxing those that party here and get caught. And, I want to know if these fines are paying for the extra police protection in terms of impacts to the budget.

I would also like to know about drug offense and victim-less crimes? What are the ratios among the crimes and patrols. I sense that the grip on these reports, incidents, calls, and outcomes is fleeting. As controller or as a city council member, I'd be sure that reports were flowing to citizens in real time ways -- not 30 days later and after the reports have been scrubbed.

Yes, the police 'scrub' the data. That's part of their job. Home owners scrub the sidewalks. Police scrub the data. Scrubbed data is exactly what must be seen. Of course conformity with national crime stats must exist. But, an open source software solution with lots of interested eyeballs getting to see the data would work wonders.

By the way, crime reports cost citizens $35 each. That's about $35 too much.

Get this. Some police don't write the same number of citations as others, Sherlock stated. Guess who is getting promoted.

Bruce Kraus made certain to grandstand with a typical long-and-winding-road statement (but not nearly as long and winding, nor whining as this blog post) that ends with a question and shrug. He quoted from a report that was delivered to the South Side this summer. Four experts came from out-of-town to visit with community folks. They offered a report -- still being scrubbed by someone somewhere. But the preliminary reactions came. This trip by the experts was funded with URA money (still known as taxpayer money to me). The key interaction were with the South Side Local Development Corporation.

(See posting 'ding-dong-witch is dead.) I went to the meeting where a 'pre-report' was delivered. A final report is due any time now. It won't come out until after the election, I expect.

Well, I'm not exactly sure of the full quote that Kraus relayed from these outside experts -- but -- the core of the suggestion included the deployement of a full-frontal press of police intervention to fight back the rowdy bar patrons in a "SHOCK AND AWE" effort. The precise quote eludes me. But, without a doubt, it did include 'shock and awe.'

Yes, 'shock and awe.' Not 'shock and ouch' as with urination on an electric fence.

The Kraus statement sounded a lot like something George W. Bush would advance. The South Side has been in a mega clamp-down-mode -- but next comes a needed "surge."

I whispered to the guy next to me, "Jeepers, the shock and awe treatment hasn't worked out so well in Iraq or Afghanistan."

This 'shock and awe stuff' came on the heels of the prior statement from Kraus about how the bar task force has now reached success with a new ordinance from city council that limits the number of bars that can open in the South Side.

I think Kraus figures that great progress is underway considering the crackdown from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl last spring + new ordinance that limits the number of bars + shock-and-awe still to come + an exit strategy (egress). The still to come 'egress plan' is a way to get people out of the bars and back home at 2 am -- much like they move fans out of Heinz Field.

Perhaps late night bar patrons will get fuzzy slippers and a good-night mint. Then they all will tip-toe back to their cars for their ride home in the HOV lanes. Some might think that the key to peace and quiet on the South Side in the early morning hours of weekends is to open the HOV lanes in the Wabash Tunnel in a southern direction. Go figure. Who would have thunk it would have been so simple.

At least nobody claimed that the hundreds of surveillance cameras that the mayor and police want to install around the neighborhoods will insure peace and quiet.

I'm glad that people are concerned and care for our city. However, I'm frustrated to know that they are clueless as to how to fix the various problems. This is a struggle. But it isn't going to be won with property ownership clashes, with zoning code enforcements, and crack downs from the building inspectors.

People come to the South Side because we are organic, we mix, we get along, we are free to be who you want to be. Lock downs, curfews and countless arrests are sure to chart a course in a direction that I don't want to go.

I think we can have peace and quiet without turning this place into a ghost town.

Another resident at the meeting spoke about a neighboring house that has been the site for plenty of wild weekend parties. They get very loud as they chug. They've thrown things at her house. They party outside in the yard through the night and past 2:30 am. Police come but do little -- so far. After a dozen or so calls, things have been a little better, for some unknown reasons.

Perhaps the kids are getting ready for mid-term exams.

A libertarian solution to her problems would take money and damages from those that would invade her space with noisy trespass. She'd get compensated. Settlements from an independent arbitrator could work time and time again, as situations are presented.

Presently, Pittsburgh's system isn't set up to handle and reinforce this libertarian type of dispute resolution between people. Pittsburgh has a state-authority-crack-down model. The fines get pushed (or not pushed) by public employees. Residents need to call someone they know to get real attention. If fines get collected, the cash is kept by the city or county. The victim gets nothing, except endless headaches. Residents develop with more frustrations by trying to get the city to deal with her problems for her.

Victims should benefit. The victims, not the city, should get the money.

In my humble opinion, fix urination problems with more urinals. They want to create more 'sex offenders.'

People that visit the South Side and live in off-campus housing are smart. Lots of them are in college and grad school. Go figure. I think they can be trained on how to behave.

The South Side has too many bars. But, this saturation is going to fix itself as soon as the new slots parlor opens. I expect 30 bars to close within a year of the opening of the new, mega-sized "casino." The market place will make an adjustment.

A world of troubles exist. But, they are not getting fixed with heavy handed police work. And, heavier handed enforcement with more police so as to make a shock and awe surge is going to yield the same results as the foreign policy of the neo cons.
From signs

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