Fineview might have a bad rap for violence and drug activity, but residents refuse to let a few bad sailors hijack their ship.
In late October, the Fineview Citizens Council and the Fineview Block Watch organized the first “Take Back the Neighborhood” walk to show drug dealers, drug buyers and potential perpetrators of violent crime that they aren’t afraid, and that they won’t tolerate that kind of activity in their community.
The group of about 20 trekked all around central Fineview, including the public housing project Allegheny Dwellings, which has been a center for much of the violence and drug activity in the community.
They ended in the Fineview Park with a meeting where walkers could voice their concerns about the neighborhood.
Block Watch Organizer Erin Gill said the walk was a chance to go out and “show folks that it’s okay to come out and meet your neighbors,” in addition to showing potential criminals that law abiding citizens were out there with open eyes.
Walt Spak, president of the Fineview Citizens Council, said the walk had both immediate and far-reaching effects.
When the group met at the Fineview overlook, Spak said a car drove up and sat there for a while. “It’s common knowledge that people who are dealing drugs in that area will have their buyers come up to the overlook and pretend they’re looking at the city.”
Some of the walkers went over to the car and spoke with the people inside, and eventually they left.
“No, you can’t do that in our neighborhood,” Spak said in reference to the suspected drug buyers.
Already, the council and block watch are organizing another walk, and they hope to make them regular occurrences. Spak and Gill said the next one would likely be held on a Saturday some time after Thanksgiving.
After the walk, the group sent a summary of the event and three resolutions to the Mayor’s Office and City Council members Darlene Harris and Tonya Payne.
The resolutions state that the council and block watch will put a renewed focus on specific issues, and “strongly urge” the Mayor’s Office, City Council and the Pittsburgh Police to do the same.
The issues are reducing drug activity and violence, “making Allegheny Dwellings a safe and livable place” and “providing for the proper and consistent maintenance of vacant properties and overgrown areas — including our City Steps.”
To do their part, Gill said she is working hard on continuing organization efforts for the block watch, which currently has between 15 and 20 active volunteers.
Eventually, Gill would like to see a street captain on each street of Fineview. Street captains look out for drug transactions and suspicious activity and report it to Gill, who reports to the police.
Another purpose of the captains is to provide a way for fearful residents to speak out anonymously. They can take their observations to the block captains without feeling like they are opening themselves up for retribution.
Gill said the community wants to be “more proactive than reactive” in reducing crime and violence.
Soon, thanks to Councilwomen Harris and Payne, Fineview will have a surveillance camera to aid in its crime reduction drive. Gill said they already had the money from Harris and were waiting on the other half from Payne.
Fineview Citizens Council will most likely place the camera at the corner of Belleau Street and Belleau Drive by Allegheny Dwellings.
Fineview citizens aren’t going to sit in their homes, too afraid to come out, she said. “We’re going to stand together.”