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'Stealers' find themselves on losing team

| Friday, Jan. 30, 2009

Trafford police found that Super Bowl tickets aren't the only hot Steelers items around.

Police who stopped a Cadillac speeding through Trafford last week found more than $1,260 worth of stolen Steelers merchandise inside. There were jerseys, T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, purses and jewelry, along with two handwritten price lists for the items.

The merchandise looked new, police said, and carried price tags from JC Penney in Monroeville Mall, Renee's Hallmark in Shaler, and Lids and Hometowne Sports, both in Century III Mall, West Mifflin.

A passenger in the car, Secily Grace Campbell, 20, of Pitcairn, was charged with receiving stolen property. Campbell told police she knew the merchandise was stolen when she purchased it from a Pitcairn man.

When a team has a successful run, its merchandise becomes a target for thieves, store managers said.

"Anything that's hot, they'll go for," said Tom Budd, manager of Hometowne Sports. "It was the same way when the Penguins were in the (Stanley Cup final). The most popular things are jerseys and hats."

Budd said the theft problem was worse in 2006 when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL.

The merchandise confiscated in Trafford was mostly high-ticket items, including:

Two Steelers sweatshirts, $49.99 each; two mesh Steelers purses, valued at $29.99 and $42; nine conference championship hats, $30 each; and three official sideline hats, $25 each.

Budd said his store takes measures to prevent theft. "We just hire extra people to watch. That's pretty much all you can do," he said.

Earlier this month, Joyce L. Mackey, 28, of Merrittstown, Fayette County, was charged with receiving stolen property in connection with Steelers items stolen in the fall from stores in East Huntingdon, Hempfield and Jeannette.

Some of the goods spilled out into the street in a car crash in October that killed Mackey's husband, Robert Paul Mackey.

Marcia Hellman, president of Mike Feinberg Co. in Pittsburgh's Strip District, said Steelers merchandise becomes a hot commodity during any winning season.

"Definitely, they're going to try and resell it," Hellman said of thieves. "We have extra security and try to keep our eyes open. ... We just try and watch."

Hellman said she's prepared for a Steelers Super Bowl win Sunday. She hired extra security guards and uniformed police.

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