WOOF Mt. Lebanon residents love dogs. They love them so much that when Mt. Lebanon Police Department’s police dog, Sundi, died last year, residents and local merchants donated more than $20,000 for the purchase and training of a new police dog. “That exceeded the amount we needed,” says Police Chief Coleman McDonough. “We were thrilled by the generosity of the community.”
Several police officers applied to be the department’s new canine handler; Officer Ben Himan was ultimately selected. Interestingly, Himan’s twin brother is a K9 officer in Ohio.
The generous donations will cover the cost of the dog, plus pay for Himan’s training and for modifications to the canine patrol car. (The dog needs a separate area of the SUV where he can ride and a built-in safety mechanism that lowers the windows and turns on an exhaust fan if it gets too warm inside when the car is unattended.
In April, Himan will start training at the Shallow Creek Kennels, a privately owned police service dog importing and training facility in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania. The six weeks Himan spends at the center will include an initial two-week period where he will work with several dogs to find the one he is most compatible with. McDonough refers to this period—with a smile—as the “dating” phase. After Himan finds his dog, the duo will train together for several weeks. Himan will have to learn commands in another language—Sundi, for instance, understood Czech. This is done so only the dog’s handler can issue commands.
The new dog will begin work here in June. He (police dogs are male) will be used for crowd control, tracking missing persons and drug searches. As with Sundi, Giant Eagle will donate dog food and the Greentree Animal Hospital will provide discounted veterinarian services.
E-CITING NEWS The North Central Highway Safety Network, in partnership with the Pennsylvania State Police, have selected the Mt. Lebanon Police Department as one of three departments in western Pennsylvania to pilot an e-citation program. The Traffic and Criminal Software (TraCS) program, developed by the Technology Enterprise Group (TEG), allows police officers to produce automated crash reports and traffic citations from a computer in their cars—thus eliminating handwritten citations. Police officers can scan driver’s licenses and registrations—reducing the possibility of errors—and then electronically send the citation to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts and the district magistrate’s office. The system saves all information, allowing officers quick access if another citation is issued to the same person. Police Chief Coleman McDonough says the State Police have been using the software for more than a year and report that the system has increased efficiency, reduced errors, cut down on paperwork and saved funds. The system can be used for any sort of citation—a bad plate, expired inspection sticker, speeding ticket or other moving violation, etc. For now, only four Mt. Lebanon patrol cars will have the system, but McDonough’s goal is to eventually install the software, scanners and printers in all 14 of the department’s patrol cars.
SMOKE ALARM CHECK After a fire in the community, Mt. Lebanon firefighters canvas the immediate area—usually about 30 to 35 houses—to talk with the neighbors about what happened, discuss how to prevent similar fires and answer questions. While visiting, they check for smoke alarms. Statistically they’ve found that about 30 percent of houses are unprotected—with either no alarm or nonfunctioning ones. Firefighters do not leave until they are sure the house has a working smoke alarm. The department budgets about $1,800 per year to purchase smoke alarms for this program.
In January, after a fire that took two lives on McNeilly Road, firefighters were stunned to find that 42 percent of the houses in that neighborhood lacked working smoke alarms. A smoke alarm, which costs about $20, significantly increases your chances of surviving a deadly home fire, and the National Fire Protection Association reports that nearly two-thirds of home fire deaths were in properties without working smoke alarms.
A smoke alarm lasts eight to 10 years, so when installing it write the date on it with a Sharpie. Get in the habit of replacing the batteries twice a year—when you adjust your clocks for daylight savings time is easy to remember…and that’s coming up on Sunday, March 10. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home, including the basement, and, for extra safety, outside all bedrooms.