Public Safety

In 1993, crime prevention officer Blaise Larotonda tooled around town in a Trans Am that was forfeited in a drug bust. /Photo: Gene Puskar

Police Centennial

Mt. Lebanon Police Department celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. In each issue, we will share a piece of police history.

If you went to school here in the 1990s, you probably know that before he donned a judge’s robe, District Judge Blaise Larotonda was a Mt. Lebanon Police Officer for 25 years. He spent a big chunk of his time in uniform as a crime prevention officer. In this 1993 photo, Larotonda is behind the wheel of a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am, which was seized from a drug dealer and retooled as a mobile advertisement for the department’s fledgling Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, which at the time was only offered at St. Bernard School.

In a December 1993 Mt. Lebanon Magazine story, Larotonda said the flashy car helped to open up a dialogue with the kids, and made him more approachable.

“Look, you might get a really nice car by selling drugs,” he said, “But the system always catches up with you.”

Larotonda retired from the bench earlier this year after serving 16 years. (See below)

Magisterial District Judge Blaise Larotonda with his wife, Dorothy. /Photo: George Mendel

HEARTY CONGRATS The Commission read a special proclamation in January to salute Magisterial District Judge Blaise Larotonda, pictured here with his wife, Dorothy, after his retirement from the bench. During his 16 years as a judge, he heard more than 7,000 cases, performed more than 680 weddings and took a special interest in making sure first-time underage drinking offenders learned not to make the same mistakes twice.

It’s actually his second Mt. Lebanon retirement—he was a police officer for 25 years. During his tenure as a police officer, many knew him as “Officer Blaise,” who ran the anti-drug and alcohol programs in the school district.

He was active in coaching youth hockey and also works the fish fries at St. Winifred’s on Fridays during Lent.


DON’T HIDE THE HYDRANT We are subject to getting a last gasp of winter in March, in the form of a blizzard or other big-time snow event. The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department would appreciate your help in keeping the area around fire hydrants clear of snow. A simple 3-foot circle around the fire plug would help them hook up quickly in an emergency­—and who wouldn’t want that?


DRINK SMART Mt. Lebanon has had two bad vehicle accidents in the past few months where police believe alcohol was a factor. As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, please consider using a ride sharing app like Lyft or Uber when you want to imbibe.

The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department named Lt. Daniel Morris, second from left, as its Fire Officer of the Year for 2019. He is pictured with Commission President Craig Grella, far left, Fire Chief Nick Sohyda, second from right, and Deputy Fire Chief Sean Daniels. Morris coordinated replacement of the fire department’s radios, in cooperation with police. /Photo: George Mendel

Top Firefighters

THE MT. LEBANON FIRE DEPARTMENT singled out two of its own for special honors. Firefighter Steve Noorbakhsh was named Firefighter of the Year, and Lt. Daniel Morris received Fire Officer of the Year honors. The Firefighter award is given to a volunteer firefighter and the Fire Officer award goes to a career firefighter. Each is nominated and selected by his peers.

Noorbakhsh served in an instrumental role as the chair of the department’s recruitment and retention committee and created the members’ section of the department’s new website.

Firefighter of the Year Steve Noorbakhsh, left, with Fire Chief Nick Sohyda and Assistant Fire Chief Sean Daniels. Noorbakhsh, a volunteer firefighter, answered 300 calls and had more than 300 hours of training in 2019. /Photo: George Mendel

Morris was recognized for his efforts in coordinating the replacement of portable and mobile radio replacement with the police department, the municipality, and the vendor, and for his positive attitude and commitment to providing training to the volunteer staff.


DOOR TO DOOR As spring weather leaves behind winter’s chill, expect to see more people knocking on doors in your neighborhood.

Solicitors—people who are selling something—need a permit from the police department. If you don’t want to be bothered, the best thing to do is place a No Soliciting sign on your door. Anyone selling anything who ignores that sign can be reported to police for violating our ordinances.

Canvassers—people who are representing a cause but not selling anything—do not need a permit and are still permitted to knock on your door.

If you answer the knock, Police Chief Aaron Lauth says you don’t have to do what the person asks. For example, you do not have to provide an electric bill. And beware of high-pressure sales tactics, such as being told your neighbors are all buying it—whatever it is. It may not be true.

And keep in mind, anyone identifying themselves as a utility company employee must produce an identification badge with a photograph.


Mt. Lebanon’s topography sometimes makes crossing the street more challenging. For example, drivers turning onto Washington Road from Cedar Boulevard may not see pedestrians crossing, either because of sun glare in the morning or because the side pillar in their vehicle can create a blind spot. Drivers should take an extra look before turning to make sure no one is in the crosswalk. Pedestrians should not assume drivers see them either. Pedestrians do have the right-of-way in the crosswalk but that only works if the driver sees them. Always walk defensively.


PHONE SCAMS A couple of reminders: the IRS will never call you. It uses the U.S. Postal Service for communication. Never give anyone your Social Security number. Your grandson Bobby has not been arrested in Canada and he does not need bail money. No one will call you to tell you there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Nobody legitimate will ask you to pay a bill or fee by purchasing a gift card. Review these tips with some of your elderly friends and family. Senior citizens can be more trusting and fall victim to these scams more often.