Verona residents seek to restart a borough crime watch
A shooting incident in Verona has some residents wanting to restart a crime watch program.
Police Chief Ron McLemore said someone shot up an unoccupied vehicle around 2:25 a.m. June 21 along the 400 block of North Avenue.
No one was injured, the incident remains under investigation and no suspect information was released.
Residents along that block met this month with Mayor David Ricupero, and spoke with council about their safety concerns and rebooting a borough-wide crime watch.
“We think it went better than we expected,” said resident Trish Showalter. “We put out big goals. We were happy for the support we got. There’s still a lot of work ahead, but the wheels are in motion to restart some of the previous initiatives.”
Ricupero said Verona had a crime watch program years ago, but it had since dwindled down to a few residents on Third Avenue.
One of Showalter’s neighbors, Lisa Lagrotteria, said she made the 911 call the night of the shooting.
“I heard two shots go off,” she said. “I jumped and thought somebody was about to shoot down my front door. My daughter came running in the room scared, crying.”
McLemore told residents officers were working hard on the case, but could not get into details about the ongoing investigation.
Lagrotteria started a Facebook page for North Avenue residents to increase neighbor communication, and encouraged the borough to do the same.
Showalter launched a petition through Change.org to show how much residents “want Verona to be a safer place to live, work, shop and play.”
It was posted July 6 and had 83 out of a 100-signature goal as of July 10.
The petition lists goals of increased street lighting, a neighborhood watch program, acquiring security cameras and increased pay for officers to maintain the force and attract more applicants.
Showalter presented the petition to council at its July voting meeting.
“The point of it is to make the neighbors, both old (and) young, all be comfortable in the town, and be comfortable with the police force and fire department and have a positive exchange,” said Jen Kuhn, one of the North Avenue neighbors. “I think everyone has lived in a bubble of safety, and it’s shattered now. People are scrambling.
“If we’re more proactive, the cops can come and have some meetings with neighbors and kids so we’re friendlier with them. It’s about all of us being more accountable and building a relationship.”
Council members thanked the residents for their efforts and pledged to work on the petition’s recommendations, particularly seeking grants for security cameras.
Ricupero said he plans to reach out to Allegheny County officials for crime watch support.
“The county has a program. They come in and help you set it up,” the mayor said. “Then we take it over as a police department … We’re going to move forward and hopefully, we get every street in Verona to do a crime watch and be more diligent of their surroundings. There’s a lot of new, younger people in town that are willing to step up now. It’s going to take time. It’s not going to be in a week or two.”
Residents who wish to support the crime watch efforts can contact the borough office at 412-828-8080.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .