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Police share public safety tips

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 3:31 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Listening to a community crime watch presentation on identity theft at the Dravosburg municipal building, from left, are Councilwoman Barbara Stevenson, Marie Griffith, Debbie Wilson, Jan Catalogna and Councilman John Palcsey.

Dravosburg Mayor Michelle Vezzani hopes a series of community crime watch presentations will keep residents informed about public safety.

The borough isn't forming a traditional crime watch with formal board meetings, but rather is facilitating community awareness about public safety issues.

McKeesport Police Department presented its third quarterly program on Wednesday evening, and Vezzani said she hopes participation will grow.

The first presentation brought more than 50 residents last summer, when an increase in burglaries prompted concern. A presentation on narcotics this winter drew only a handful.

Wednesday's topic was identity theft, and approximately 20 attended. The group consisting mostly of senior citizens said the issue is important.

“It's timely with what has happened at Target and Neiman Marcus (with customer information being accessed illegally),” resident Pat Toth said. “All of our information is out there. Any time you use a credit card, it's like open season.”

McKeesport Detective Joe Osinski defined identity theft as any unauthorized access to or use of another person's information. He encouraged attendees to protect themselves online and in public places.

In keeping with that theme, the borough plans to offer free document shredding on April 19.

“We try to get out with different topics and give you as much information as we can,” Osinski said.

Vezzani said she needs public input to gear presentations toward the community's needs.

“We want people to come, and we want people to learn,” Vezzani said. “We need your suggestions to make this successful.”

Based on some suggestions, McKeesport police may address women's self-defense and gun safety.

“Our goal is to create public awareness of crime to reduce the vulnerability of victims and to establish a police-community relationship,” McKeesport Chief Bryan J. Washowich said.

The department is willing to develop presentations based on need and concern, the chief added.

Dravosburg Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 may offer fire safety tips, including information about smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Residents asked if programs could go outside the scope of public safety to include health and wellness or financial stability.

Glassport Crime Watch co-chairs Angelo Norelli and David Kowalski attended Dravosburg's meeting to see what was happening in their neighboring borough, and they said attendance should increase with more exposure.

“When we started, it was all senior citizens just like this,” Norelli said. “We're starting to get young people now. We have 40-50 at every meeting, and people are interested in our activities.”

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or jvertullo@tribweb.com.

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