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Zone 3 South Side police station moving to Allentown | TribLIVE.com
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Zone 3 South Side police station moving to Allentown

Justin Vellucci
| Saturday, July 19, 2008 12:00 a.m

A bloody summer and a spate of shootings plaguing Pittsburgh’s southern hilltop neighborhoods have persuaded city officials to move a police station from the South Side’s bar-packed streets to violence-torn Allentown.

The move, to be complete by Jan. 1, will relocate Zone 3 officers from a station on 18th Street to an 11,000-square-foot former hostel now owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The cost of the move and renovations to the Allentown building remain unclear.

“It’s the greatest thing to happen to Allentown since the streetcar,” said Bob Kramer, 52, an Allentown resident and city inspector.

It might be the worst thing to happen to parts of the South Side since $1 drafts and happy hour, some worry. The neighborhood, known for sometimes-reckless crowds that congregate at clubs and taverns on Friday and Saturday nights, needs all the police it can hold, business operators said.

“On the weekends … it’s what we call amateur night for a lot of people,” said Russ Swickline of Baldwin Borough, who works at Fatheads, a South Side bar and restaurant. “They get crazy.”

“I actually would like to see more police presence down here,” said Beth Sturm, 40, of Brookline, who runs The Bead Mine. “I understand that they’re understaffed … but I think it’s unacceptable.”

City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents both neighborhoods, isn’t sure whether the Zone 3 station belongs in South Side or Allentown. But he thinks it would have been nice if someone had asked his opinion.

“My concern is the decision was made unilaterally,” Kraus said. “No elected official, including myself, was contacted.”

Location might not be as important as police staffing levels, adequate vehicles and consistent management, Kraus said.

“A police station’s location is not what determines whether a neighborhood is safe or unsafe. It’s about policing procedures,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl forwarded questions about Kraus’ comments to Public Safety Director Michael Huss, who issued a statement.

“We have got serious issues here to deal with,” Huss said. “We’re talking murder, drugs, gun violence. The mayor and the community want action now. This is leadership.”

Citizen activists lauded the move, which they said sends a message that police will not tolerate the recent spike in crime.

“I think it shows this is an administration that wants to work with people that work with us,” said Judy Hackel, president of the Allentown Community Development Corp.

“I’m so proud to see the emphasis is not on the South Side,” said Sharon Daniels, a Beltzhoover resident and executive director of My Brother’s Keeper, a community group. “We’re able to come together and say, ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

Dozens of homicides have been reported in the city this year, but in one week in June, there were at least six shootings that killed three people and wounded eight in Pittsburgh’s southern hilltop communities.

Ravenstahl said police immediately plan to bump up saturation patrols in the hilltop communities to seven nights a week. But, in January, police will begin a renewed crackdown on curfew violations as they open their station in the four-story building at the corner of Arlington and Warrington avenues.

“I think this will allow us to be more efficient and more effective in monitoring Zone 3,” Ravenstahl said during a news conference at the Allentown site. “We ask the residents to be patient, but I think they understand that we’re trying.”

Zone 3 Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly could not be reached for comment.

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