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Alle-Kiski Valley police add patrols to curtail holiday shoplifting

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 12:52 a.m.
Frazer Police Officers Timothy Christian (left) and Aaron Scott patrol the Pittsburgh Mills mall on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Frazer police Officers Aaron Scott and Timothy Christian check in with Jeremy Gugino, owner Community Gold Buyers, a store that buys gold and jewelry in the Pittsburgh Mills mall, on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch

‘Tis the season for plundering expensive merchandise, and so it's also the season for beefing up police patrols in shopping areas.

Although shoplifting in the Alle-Kiski Valley this holiday season doesn't match the audacity of the five thieves who recently walked off with thousands of dollars worth of high-end hand bags from the Louis Vuitton store at the Ross Park Mall, police here remain vigilant.

“I don't have four and five people rushing in and grabbing things and running out, but it could happen any time,” said Frazer police Chief Carl Toscolani, whose police department patrols Pittsburgh Mills mall.

“We have so many cameras stationed here that if it does happen, we're bound to get the license plate number,” he said.

And that's about 300 cameras.

Between the cameras inside and outside the stores and in the parking lots, Toscolani is confident his department could pull a license number from surveillance video footage.

And such defense is needed as retailers nationwide stand to lose $8.9 billion this holiday season from retail theft, which would be 4 percent higher than last year's losses, according to the Centre for Retail Research in the United Kingdom.

Every holiday season, Frazer and other police departments step up patrols in shopping areas.

“Our officers even walk the mall for police presence there,” Toscolani said.

It also helps that Frazer police work with mall security and the Frazer police station is in the mall.

“We have an open door policy with the stores,” he said.

Jerry Crites, general manager of Pittsburgh Mills said, “”The great advantage we have compared to every other mall is that we have the police department in the mall — that's a great deterrent.”

Lower Burrell police increase patrols at the Hillcrest Shopping Center and other retail developments, according to city police Chief Tim Weitzel.

“Typically, we increase those patrols this time of year every year,” he said.

So far this holiday season, Weitzel reports that there isn't an uptick or trend of unusual retail thefts.

Weitzel stressed that shoppers need to think about their own safety as well by not leaving their purses unattended, parking in well-lit areas and having their car keys ready before walking to their vehicles.

Toscolani said that shoplifting activity is about what it was last year, with maybe four or five cases per week.

The incidents typically involve less than $1,000 in merchandise and are handled by the stores.

“Like I tell my men: ‘We're going to prepare for the worst, and we're going to hope for the best,' ” he said.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at

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