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Verdict not in on success of South Side 'blitz'

| Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

Residents, regular customers and restaurateurs had mixed opinions on the weekend's police sweeps of the South Side, but all hoped the increase in inspections, parking tickets and traffic stops lasts long enough to have a real effect on the rowdy nightlife.

About two dozen extra patrol officers, towing crews and teams of police and fire marshals made their presence known along Carson Street on Friday and Saturday nights, making 26 arrests, handing out nearly 150 traffic citations, towing 76 vehicles and making 67 checks of bars for occupancy or fire code violations, according to a statement from the office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

“It's just something that has to be done, because in a lot of ways, people get out of control down here,” said Kevin Saum, a bartender at Mullen's on Carson.

The verdict was not unanimous on the success of the effort after one weekend, and whether the city would be able to keep it up long enough to make a difference.

“My question is: How long is it going to last?” said Eron Gonz, 41, manager of the South Side Barbershop. “Is it going to be a two-, three-week thing and then phase things back to how it used to be?”

Gonz said he and several others were hanging out inside the barbershop Jan. 13 when a police chase that had started in Homestead ended with officers firing at the fleeing car nearby, wounding driver Donald Burris Jr., 32, and his mother, Lena Davenport, 49.

Ravenstahl announced the public safety “blitz” days after the shooting. He said on Friday that the sweeps would continue for “as long as it takes.”

“I say focus on the side streets where the crap happens,” said Kate Nix, 40, of Zelienople, who said she is a regular visitor to the South Side. “You always see the police up on Carson; it seems like they're attacking the bar owners.”

Tracy Konieczny, 29, a manager at Carson City Saloon, said police and fire marshals came into the bar both nights to check that it was not exceeding its occupancy limit and that its fire exits were clear and marked.

Knowing the crackdown was coming led bar owners to make patrons wait at the door rather than squeeze in a few more than the occupancy limit, Konieczny said. That could have harmed business and raised tensions among the customers left out in the cold, she added.

Ruth Malloy, a 53-year resident of the South Side, said she welcomed the extra police presence and hoped it would clean up the spillover of Carson Street partying into the residential side streets.

“When the bars close, they all come down here and hang around,” said Malloy, 73. “They make a mess and look into houses.”

“The problem's not inside the bars. It's after people leave,” Konieczny said.

Without adequate taxi or bus service when the bars let out, patrons tend to try to drive drunkenly or hang around the neighborhood.

“People are just creeping around the South Side, waiting to sober up, and that's when the fights and the problems happen,” she said.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus, who represents the South Side, said he would speak to business owners this week to gauge their impressions of the sweep.

Overall, Kraus said, the sweeps would be part of the larger efforts recommended by the California-based Responsible Hospitality Institute.

“What I know of the sweep is that it was relatively successful, in that there were no major incidents,” Kraus said. “The Responsible Hospitality Institute plan is more of a long-range rehabilitation plan, and it's difficult to do rehabilitation if your patient is hemorrhaging.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-380-5625or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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