POLICE WORK Upper St. Clair and Bethel Park have joined the Mt. Lebanon Area DUI Task Force, which operates checkpoints and roving patrols in Mt. Lebanon and other South Hills communities, including Baldwin Township, Bridgeville, Castle Shannon, Collier, Dormont, Heidelberg, Green Tree, Scott and South Fayette. The cooperative corps will be stepping up enforcement as the weather warms. Be careful out there.
Officer Sam Smolarek was selected for the South Hills Area Council of Governments (SHACOG) Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) as a tactical operator. Smolarek has completed coursework in the area of basic and advanced special weapons and tactics courses taught in Pittsburgh by members of the National Tactical Officers Association. The SHACOG CIRT responds to regional incidents in its 22-member communities and can provide backup in other areas.
Several Mt. Lebanon police officers will attend Peace Officers Memorial Day in Washington, D.C., on May 15. The annual observance, which coincides with National Police Week, remembers federal, state and local officers killed or disabled in the line of duty. President Kennedy signed the observance into law in 1962. All Mt. Lebanon police officers will wear a black mourning band around their badges that week in honor of those killed in the line of duty. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, there were 144 police line-of-duty deaths in the U.S. last year; four were in Pennsylvania, including Canonsburg Police Officer Scott Bashioum, who was killed in a shootout in November.
A BIRDS’ EYE VIEW Last month we reported that community surveillance cameras had been installed at the intersection of Gilkeson, Connor and Washington roads as part of an effort by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. This month, we can tell you about some investigations those cameras have aided and some criminals they helped to catch.
In one incident, a driver under the influence of heroin ran over a traffic island as he headed southbound on Route 19. He crashed in front of Mattress Firm and was administered multiple doses of Narcan to reverse the effects of the overdose. Cameras were able to detail the event.
In another, police were able to view a road rage incident on Connor Road, outside the Fresh Market. The victim claimed the angry driver opened his door, denting her car door but video showed that did not happen. Still, the male driver was charged for being an aggressor in the incident.
In another situation, someone called police to report a white male had been walking into Asian massage businesses dressed as a maintenance worker. Taking advantage of the language barrier, he would walk throughout the business and steal items before leaving the scene. Police were able to get a description of the car and find it on one of the cameras. The software allowed police to see the license plate and identify the suspect. They also were able to work with police in North Versailles, where the man was accused of the same crime. With the camera footage, police were able to match the cars and determine it was the same suspect.
Cameras are not monitored live; video is fed to the cloud and police can view footage on large flat screen TVs in the watch commander’s office at the public safety center.
The camera project continues to expand as funds become available. Cameras are being installed at the intersection of Castle Shannon and Mt. Lebanon boulevards. The $15,000 cost for the five cameras is being paid for by the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office, Mt. Lebanon Municipality and Castle Shannon Borough. Police Chief Aaron Lauth hopes to add Scott Road at its intersection with Washington Road to the list.
SPECIAL OLYMPICS BENEFIT Mt. Lebanon police will participate in Cops on Rooftops, a fundraiser for the Law Enforcement Torch Run to benefit Special Olympics of Pennsylvania, on May 19. Officers will take turns appearing on the roof of the Dunkin Donuts on Washington Road near The Galleria. Patrons will be able to donate to Special Olympics at the event. Police from other departments will participate at Dunkin Donuts in Oakland, Pleasant Hills, Market Square and Cranberry.
APPING IS NAPPING If you are among the more than 80 percent of drivers who have a smartphone and think it’s safe to use the talk-to-text feature or an app that lets you to compose texts or social media posts while driving, you’re wrong.
Police Chief Aaron Lauth points to national studies on “attention blindness ,” a condition where a driver is looking at the road but not really seeing what’s going on there. And a AAA study talks about the “hangover effect,” where the mind stays distracted for up to 20 seconds after finishing a text or updating social media. So even if you’re using your phone to communicate while stopped at a traffic light or sitting in a parking lot, once you start moving, your mind is likely not on task.
HOT IN PITTSBURGH What’s better on a brisk summer night than a fire pit with s’mores and hot dogs? If you’re going to light up your outdoor fire pit, portable fireplace or chiminea, Mt. Lebanon Fire Department wants to remind you of the Allegheny County recreational fire regulations.
- The fuel area must be three feet or less in diameter and two feet or less in height. The fire must be 25 feet away from buildings and anything that could catch on fire, such as trees (or tree houses.)
- Don’t burn if the winds are high or if it’s been extremely dry. The fire could spread.
- You must attend the fire until it is completely out, and you need to have a way to quickly put out the fire—a garden hose, fire extinguisher or dirt/sand. And no, your margarita does not count.
- You may not burn trash or yard waste.
- Use all devices according to the manufacturers’ recommendations, and do not overload.
Also, if you’re grilling out, don’t place your grill on a covered porch or closer than 10 feet to a building. Every year, the fire department responds to at least six grill-related fires.