PUBLIC SAFETY ADVOCACY FOR GARFIELD, BLOOMFIELD, AND FRIENDSHIP
Advocated for neighbors on quality-of-life concerns, from potholes to nuisance properties:
• 260 abandoned and neglected homes demolished in Garfield since 1986
• 64% reduction in reported crime since 1999 with help of Public Safety Task Force
• In 2019, four roads were paved in Garfield at a cost of approximately $232,622. Another 8 roads are scheduled to be paved in 2020-2021
• Worked with Zone 5 Public Safety Community Council to distribute 350 coats & toys to children in winter of 2020
BGC Public Safety Goals:
• Push for consistency in the application of all zoning, building, property maintenance and health codes
• Lead residents in responding to quality of life concerns & acting to protect their health or safety
• Support the efforts of volunteers in cleaning and beautifying the environment
• Coordinate with law enforcement & other agencies responding effectively to criminal activity & property neglect
• Bring to light instances of damage done by others to public spaces or private property
• Retain & develop the physical, economic & social assets in Garfield to their highest and best use
The BGC convenes periodic meetings of its public safety task force that attempts to strengthen the community’s relations with the city police, city department of permits, licenses and inspections, the county health department, juvenile and adult probation agencies, the courts, and the district attorney’s office. While serious crimes in Garfield and along Penn Avenue have hit an all-time low, there are still instances of vandalism, illegal dumping, petty theft, and auto break-ins that dog the area.
The BGC also reviews a list of vacant, deteriorated houses each year with the city’s Department of Permits, Inspections, and Licenses to assess those which may require condemnation and eventual demolition by the city.
There is fresh energy today to secure outdoor areas in Garfield for all residents to enjoy. City planning has hired a consultant to work with neighborhood stakeholders to create a plan for enhancement and improvements to Fort Pitt Ball-field and Park. The BGC is working with Allegheny Land Trust to retain the former Healcrest Farm as a neighborhood green space. The BGC is also helping Garfield Community Farm with the acquisition of the last few parcels coming to it through the city’s Vacant Property Reserve. The farm was only able to lease these lots previously from the city.
Sometimes, good people land in hot water with the courts, hurting their job prospects for years. To relieve this hardship, the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation and District Magistrate Judge Mik Pappas have partnered to offer an alternative for persons accused of nonviolent summary offenses, the lowest level of criminal offense.
Called the 1520 Adjudication Alternative Program in the Pennsylvania Judicial Code, Pappas can assign community service or other self-improvement activities to nonviolent defendants without rendering a judgment, levying a fine or ordering jail time. Defendants are not required to plead “guilty,” and charges are dismissed once the defendant completes the program. Their record is automatically expunged.
“Community service can be assigned before a verdict is rendered, when a verdict is rendered, or even after a verdict is rendered,” Pappas said. “There really is a lot of opportunity to intervene.” Defendants can tell a judge that they want to participate in the program and, if accepted, they’ll either be assigned to a work site or get to choose from a list of available sites, he said.
Adjudication Alternative defendants, community service clients, and other volunteers can participate in education workshops, community clean-ups, trail building, and maintenance such as weeding invasive plants. There is even an opportunity for sculpting that combines welding and nature-based art components.
Right now, BGC wants to realize its vision for a Green Zone to make Garfield a healthier place to live, with better walking paths, bike trails and open spaces for outdoor recreation. The zone includes 30 acres of green and undeveloped property. It loops around Hillcrest Street, including former Healcrest Urban Farm, Fort Pitt Field, Garfield Community Farm, and Kite Hill Park.