ShareThis Page

Theft cases increase in past year

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:05 p.m.

While 2011's spike in violent crimes appears to have been an anomaly, incidents of theft in the Ligonier Valley doubled in the past year.

Officers from Ligonier, Bolivar, New Florence and Seward boroughs and Ligonier, Cook, St. Clair and Fairfield townships filed a total of 119 criminal complaints before District Judge Denise Snyder Thiel last year.

Thirty of those complaints were related to thefts and include the charges of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiring to commit such crimes. There were 14 complaints filed for the same charges in 2011 and 20 filed in 2007.

“Since the economy has gone downhill, we've had a major increase in thefts,” Ligonier Township police chief Mike Matrunics said. “A lot of it was jewelry or junk items that could be taken in and pawned for money.”

Conversely, the number of violent crimes dwindled to two in 2012, down from 14 in 2011.

Violent crimes include charges of aggravated assault, homicide, maiming or killing animals, making terroristic threats and rape.

Officers filed two complaints in 2012 that included violent crime. They were:

• John F. Hess, 48, of Ligonier pleaded guilty to charges of cruelty to animals, simple assault and harassment in connection with a Feb. 19 incident. Two counts of aggravated assault were withdrawn in the case, and Hess was sentenced to 3 to 23 months of incarceration with credit for time served, a $150 fine plus court costs, and to undergo drug and alcohol and anger management counseling. His parole was revoked last August after another incident involving the same victim and he remains in Westmoreland County Prison, serving the remainder of the 23-month sentence.

• Ronald D. Iscrupe, 32, of Ligonier pleaded guilty to charges of making terroristic threats and simple assault after an April 6 incident where Iscrupe allegedly threatened to kill a woman and himself, while holding a 14-inch-long kitchen knife, according to Ligonier Township police. Charges of recklessly endangering another person and aggravated assault were dismissed by Westmoreland County Judge Rita D. Hathaway, and a charge of harassment was withdrawn. Iscrupe was sentenced to three years probation.

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol remained the most frequently occurring crime in 2012. About 32 percent of criminal complaints filed last year include driving under the influence.

In addition, the 119 total number of criminal complaints filed in 2012, is up seven from 2011 and up 20 from five years ago.

“I'd like to say that we're clearing more cases than we have in previous years,” Matrunics said. “2012 was the best year of personnel for me — we had one or two officers on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week — and our follow-ups have been better. But I also think the economy has something to do with an increase in crimes.”

Ligonier Borough police chief John Berger could not be reached for comment.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.