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Police impostor on the loose

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2001

After four incidents of police impostors accosting women in Ross and McCandless, women must be more alert in the North Hills, advocates say.

North Hills Community Outreach will sponsor a public meeting on crime prevention next week because of the police impersonations and attacks on four women since Oct. 1. The attacks targeted women walking alone or near bus stops in McCandless, Ross, Shaler and Hampton.

"We have always been very safe in these neighborhoods," said Maripat Kwaczala, resource specialist of North Hills Community Outreach. "We have to be much more alert."

She said the impostors cause further feelings of isolation because they make it difficult for women to feel safe if they are stopped by police officers.

The outreach center's session on crime prevention will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 1965 Ferguson Road, Hampton Township.

Two police impersonation incidents happened in McCandless and two in Ross. Police from Allegheny County, Ross and McCandless are investigating whether there is any connection between the cases. They have not determined whether all four impersonations involve the same person.

Police gave these accounts of the impersonation incidents:

  • McCandless, 2 a.m. Saturday: A woman was coming home from a Ross Township bar when she noticed a new model car following her, McCandless Police Chief Gary Anderson said. When the woman pulled into the parking lot of her apartment complex, the man told her he was an Allegheny County police officer and asked for her identification, claiming she had been driving erratically. When the woman refused, the man returned to his car and drove off, Anderson said.
  • McCandless, 5 a.m. Sunday: A man claiming to be a police officer approached the car of a couple parked in the 8200 block of Brittany Place. The impostor asked if the two lived in the area. They said they did not, and the woman's friend said he was taking her home, Anderson said. When the man dropped off the woman, the impostor got out of his car and started following the woman to her house, Anderson said. The woman's friend chased the impostor away, Anderson said.
  • Ross, early Sunday: A man driving a light colored vehicle followed a woman home from McKnight Road. When she pulled into her driveway, the man approached her car, identified himself as a police officer and said he wanted to speak to her about her driving. The woman refused to talk to him and the man left, Barrett said.
  • Ross, Nov. 17: A woman told Ross police that a man in a light colored vehicle followed her home from Babcock Boulevard and approached her car when it was in her driveway. He said he was an officer and wanted to talk to her about outstanding warrants. The woman refused and the man left. The woman told police the man was in a car that possibly had markings resembling a police cruiser and a light bar, Ross Township police detective Bill Barrett said.

    The man in the McCandless cases is described as white, in his early 30s and 5 feet 9. He has short brown hair and a muscular build and was wearing dark-colored sweatpants and sweatshirt.

    Witnesses described the man involved in the Ross cases as white, 5 feet 8 to 5 feet 10 inches, wearing casual, dark-colored clothing and a dark cap. Ross police released a composite sketch of the man.

    Staying on guard


    Police officers will show their badges and department patches to people they stop for traffic or other minor offenses, according to Charles Seibert, president of the Pennsylvania Crime Prevention Association of Western Pennsylvania and a police sergeant in Richland Township.

    He said some law enforcement agencies use unmarked cars, but only rarely. He said many police cars are equipped with lights and a siren not found on civilian cars.

    Drivers who are stopped after dark should slow down, turn on their flashers and stop in a well-lighted area, Seibert said. He also said drivers should turn on their dome light when an officer is making a traffic stop.

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