Crime down in Carnegie; reports of fraud rise
By Doug Gulasy
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
To this day, Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek remembers a saying from one of his old statistics professors: All stats are wrong, but some are useful.
He keeps that in mind when he appraises the Carnegie crime numbers at the end of each month and at the end of the each year.
At the Feb. 11 Carnegie Borough Council meeting, Kobistek reported the borough experienced a 6.5-percent drop in total offenses in 2012. At the same time, arrests rose in the community.
“Any time crime goes down and arrests go up, I would consider that (a good thing),” Kobistek said. “But I look at patterns.”
One pattern that concerns Kobistek is the rise of fraud in the borough.
At the Feb. 11 meeting, Kobistek reported the crime rose 900 percent in Carnegie in 2012 — from one reported case in 2011 to 10 in 2012.
“If you see the news or read the newspaper, there's a new scam out every week,” Kobistek said. “I can't even keep up with all the new scams, and they always target the most vulnerable people in the community.
“A lot of times it's our senior citizens, who are very caring and likable and will listen and talk to people.”
One well-publicized example of fraud occurred in March 2012, when an elderly Carnegie resident received a phone call that said her grandson was in jail and that he needed $2,800 to make bail.
The person who called the resident said he would send a taxi to take her to the bank and a Western Union to send the money.
A relative of the woman informed police, who intercepted the taxi and prevented the woman from losing her money.
Carnegie Police Chief Jeff Harbin said the department uses examples like that to inform residents about fraud.
“Whenever we do get something, we generally get something that somebody else has already had or that's already been in the paper or on the news,” he said. “If something that I haven't seen on the news comes up, then I would take that opportunity to contact the media and say, ‘Look, there's something new here that nobody else has gotten yet.'”
The Carnegie Police Department employs 13 full-time officers, including Sgt. Tom Oros, who focuses primarily on investigations.
Harbin said he routinely checks the offense log and attempts to prevent trends by assigning cases such as burglaries to Oros right away.
“Burglary is usually a crime that you don't just get one, especially if it's a random-type burglary,” Harbin said. “Usually, if that burglar is successful at one house in a particular neighborhood, chances are he's going to come back and continue to go fishing there.”
The department reported 25 burglaries in 2012 after 48 the year before.
An offense that did rise in 2012 was driving under the influence. Kobistek said the department counted 24 cases in 2012, a 60 percent increase from 2011.
Harbin said part of that is attributable to greater enforcement. The department conducts regular and roving DUI patrols, and officers receive advanced training in DUI detection, he said.
“I think that our department, like every department, recognizes the seriousness of people that are driving under the influence,” Harbin said.
Crime at the Carnegie Towers apartment complex also rose in 2012. Kobistek said while the growth was slight, it did catch his eye.
“If that trend continues, we're going to have to identify some interventions to reverse that trend,” he said.
While the department generally sees offense numbers throughout the borough fluctuate from year to year, Harbin said he believes Carnegie is a safe place to live.
“I believe that we work very hard to ensure that, that we take what we do very seriously,” he said.
“Obviously there's a need for statistics, but I think the perception that people have of a safe community is important, too.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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