Pittsburgh police are clearing the way for real crime-fighting in the South Side

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

It looks as though the South Side “blitz” has tracked down the real criminals.

Over the past five weekends, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police has infiltrated the area and arrested 57 people. They've towed 282 cars.

I know what you're thinking: It's about time! Remember the one night you went to the South Side and got your pocket picked by KITT from Knight Rider?

This isn't to say that the blitz isn't necessary — the South Side did report 125 violent crimes in 2011. Residents have complained for a long time about unruly behavior. But … cars?

I asked Assistant police Chief Maurita Bryant about the number of arrests vs. the number of parking citations. Yes, she said, there were only four arrests during this past weekend's blitz (for drugs and DUI) versus 46 parking citations. But she called parking a problem in the South Side.

“There was a traffic component to this detail because of visitors to the area parking illegally,” Bryant said, including blocking driveways and crosswalks.

Probably because parking legally in that neighborhood is about as difficult to find as someone in Pittsburgh who doesn't follow Steelers football.

Towing parking offenders is part of the plan, Bryant said.

“To deter negative behavior on the South Side, there was a zero tolerance for violations, so officers would have towed if warranted,” she said.

Zero tolerance? On cars?

Commander Scott Schubert, with the Special Deployment Division, said it's necessary.

“The streets are so narrow, sometimes (emergency vehicles) can't make the bends,” Schubert said. In those cases, when public safety is at issue, he said vehicles likely would be towed.

Other times, Schubert said, whether a vehicle is ticketed, towed or both is up to a patrolling officer.

That means any car in violation is up for grabs, literally — including those that are less than 15 feet from a fire hydrant and less than 20 feet from an intersection.

At first, any car parked closer than 30 feet from a stop sign or traffic light could be ticketed and towed. But then, Schubert said, the department backed away from that, recognizing how tough the parking situation is in the neighborhood.

Still, who knew parking closer than 20 feet from an intersection was a ticketable offense? Six feet, maybe 10. But 20 feet?

As it turns out, it is a law. Just about everybody does it. It takes me about four minutes to drive to work each day. I spotted a violator at each corner one day this week. Not a ticket on any of those cars.

Schubert knows that some South Side residents have been towed because of the weekend crackdowns, and mostly because these strict parking rules aren't enforced regularly. He called it a “balancing act,” with the aim to change bad behavior of visitors and residents.

Is it fair to selectively enforce these rules, even on residents who are simply parking in their regular spots?

“That doesn't make it right,” Schubert said.

Man, that's cold.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, nvanaski@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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