Local block watches keeping an eye on the Northside


Above: Brightwood cameras have helped the local block watch. (Photo by Kelsey Shea).

Fineview’s Stroll n’ Patrol Community Block Watch members had an eventful evening on May 1, when a young resident reported some suspicious behavior to the block watch captain and ultimately saved a life.

A man from Franklin Park suffering from a drug overdose was found on Catoma Street and resuscitated by paramedics who the block watch captain called after being alerted by Fineview’s watchful neighbors.

“If the Fineview resident had not reported the incident to the block watch captain, the young man  may not have survived as his companion did not know CPR or his location to call 911 for help,” said Diann Malcolm, a member of Fineview’s block watch program. “A block watch is important to keep the community safe and to communicate events, crime, needed repairs [and] dumping to the appropriate people.”

Though they go by many different names, block watch programs and public safety initiatives can be found throughout the Northside, and according to Zone 1 police officers, are both effective and important in maintaining public safety.

“The police cannot be everywhere all once and these block watch groups serve as the eyes and the ears of the community,” said Officer Forrest Hodges, Zone 1 community relations officer. “I haven’t really heard of a block watch that wasn’t effective”

Block watches are groups of neighbors who work together with local police to identify problem areas and safety issues in the neighborhoods and alert the proper authorities.

According to Hodges, every Northside neighborhood has a block watch or public safety program, and each group uses a unique approach that best fits their neighborhood’s needs.

In Troy Hill, block watch members walk the neighborhood and communicate with hand-held radios, while in Brightwood, the public safety initiative solved a murder using on-street security cameras funded by the City.

Observatory Hill also uses security cameras to monitor problematic corners, but block watch groups are organized street by street rather than by neighborhood. The groups work together and are linked by Observatory Hill Inc., the local community group.

“Block watches bring the community together. Not just for crime related activities but also for other things like, clean ups and parties to increase socialization of neighbors,” saidJasun Stanton of OHI. “Nobody knows the neighborhood better than those that live there”

The City of Pittsburgh began the official block watch program in the ’70s, but neighborhood watch groups have existed much longer.

 “If [block watches] didn’t exist, crime would be rampant,” said Hodges.

 Citizens looking to get involved in their neighborhood block watches should contact their local community group or Zone 1 police.

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