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McGruff ready to take bite out of crime in Connellsville

McGruff the Crime Dog and Trooper Stefani A. Plume, Pennsylvania State Police community service officer, attend the Connellsville Crime Watch meeting on Wednesday.

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Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, 8:12 p.m.

McGruff is ready to take a bite out of crime in Connellsville.

The crime-fighting dog dressed in a raincoat was introduced to city residents at the crime watch meeting Wednesday night at the Culver Karate Club on Pittsburgh Street.

Michael Edwards of the Fayette County Cultural Trust said the nonprofit organization recently received a $2,000 grant from the PNC Foundation.

The money was earmarked to purchase the McGruff costume and to begin outreach in the community to make residents and children aware of how important it is to take a bite out of crime, Edwards said.

Dan Cocks, who was wearing the McGruff costume, introduced guest speaker Trooper Stefani A. Plume, the community service and public information officer for the state police.

Plume stressed the importance of people taking steps to make their homes safe as a way to crack down on crime.

“My job is to visit community centers and businesses to make people aware of how important home and personal safety is,” Plume said. “A lot of people are now victims of identity theft, and we like to make people aware of what can happen because of computers and the Internet.”

Although most people believe that most crimes take place at night, Plume said statistics actually indicate that 95 percent of crimes take place during the day when people are at work.

“Criminals want to break into peoples' homes when they aren't there,” Plume said. “We always tell people to keep their doors and windows locked and keep a television or radio playing. If someone approaches your home and hears noise, they probably won't try to break in.”

Plume said criminals are also discouraged by barking dogs or a security system sign placed in a yard even if someone does not actually have a security system.

“Just the security system sign alone has been shown to discourage crime,” she said. “It's also a good idea to leave random lights on in your home so it looks like someone is there.”

In the city of Connellsville during October, Cocks said police answered 338 calls, which represented a decrease from 393 calls in September.

“That amounts to more than 10 calls a day,” Cocks said. “The Connellsville Police have been very busy.”

In October, Cocks said reported incidents included five burglaries, 12 criminal mischiefs, 24 domestic disputes, 12 drug offenses, seven public intoxication incidents and many other crimes.

Lori Culver, owner of Culver's Karate Studio, asked Plume why the state police respond to some crimes in Connellsville.

“Does the crime have to be really bad for the state police to come?” Culver asked.

Plume said the state police will respond to a crime in a city such as Connellsville, Uniontown or Masontown that has its own police force when they are called or hear a 911 call and offer their assistance.

“Anytime your local police department needs assistance they just need to call us and we will respond to help them out,” she said.

The crime watch meeting for December has been canceled. The next meeting is scheduled for January.

Cindy Ekas is a contributing writer.

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