Monday, May 16, 2011

WPXI: South Hills Homes Targeted In Burglary Spree (Updated)

Police said a group of homes in Pittsburgh's South Hills have been targeted by thieves.

Investigators said several burglaries have been reported within a 3-mile radius around Bower Hill Road. So far, homes in Upper Saint Clair, Scott and Mount Lebanon have been hit.

"They take what little bit you have and then you don't know if they are going to beat you up or what their gonna do," said Francis Swartzwelder.

Swartzwelder said many homes in her neighborhood have been hit. She said the area is made up of mostly retirees and many fear they'll be next.

Read the full article:
Update 2011-05-17 22:20: A reader has written to Blog-Lebo with a first-hand account of what the reader suspects may be burglary-related activity. —Tom

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Blogger Tom Moertel said...

We just received an anonymous comment containing information that I think most readers and residents would be interested in learning. Normally we don't publish anonymous comments, but I can understand why the author of that comment might not want to step into the public spotlight.

So, if you're that author, I'll make you a deal: Email me at and let me know who you are and why you'd prefer to remain anonymous. If I think everything is reasonable, I'll post your comment without revealing who you are, with a suitable introduction explaining why we're allowing it.


May 17, 2011 1:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

We received an anonymous comment that appears to be a homeowner’s first-hand account of activity consistent with the burglaries. We don’t ordinarily publish anonymous comments, but because the account seems authentic and, if what it describes was an actual burglary attempt, may help residents know what to look for, I'm going to reprint it here, with minor formatting changes.

First, however, I’d like to thank the submitter of this account for sharing it with our readers.

The account:

Last night, 5/16/11 at 9:20 pm, I heard car doors slamming in front of my house. Then someone came up to my door and banged on the screen door violently. My dog started growling as soon as she heard the car doors slamming, and she barked furiously as they knocked.

I was sitting on my couch and I yelled, “Who is it, what do you want?”

No one answered me back, and the dog stopped barking. I did not hear the car doors slam again, so I am sure they took off on foot with their vehicle parked a distance from my house. I didn’t get up from my couch to even look out the door because I was so frightened.

I had the phone with me so I called 911, and Mt. Lebanon police arrived within 5 minutes. I explained what happened and the officer looked around my property and said that he saw some teenagers walking in the neighborhood up the road. The officer said that there is no school on 5/17 and that it was probably some teens playing around. He totally ignored my statement that I heard car doors slamming first before the knock – so “kids walking around in the neighborhood up the road” seemed unlikely to be the case in my opinion.

I went to Blog-Lebo to see if there was a post about burglaries and sure enough here it is! There is even a news story with the local news. The officer didn’t offer me any information about the recent stream of incidents.

Blog-Lebo, thank you for posting this, because I am now going to keep this incident in mind to keep my house safe. I live right behind Washington School (not elderly though) and I am within 3 miles of Bower Hill Road.

Please residents, take heed – keep your porch lights on (my porch light was not on at the time) and doors and windows locked. This was very scary to me and the officer totally downplayed the situation.

May 17, 2011 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With all due respect, the slamming of car doors does not implicate an attempted burglary. I hear car doors slamming all the time. But, the banging on the door could have been someone casing your house. I had a similar incident happen a few years ago. I heard a knock and did get up off of the couch to take a look. No one was at the door. A few minutes later, the same thing happened and that is when I became scared and called 911. In your case, a barking dog was probably enough of a deterrent.

Please remember that our officers work very long hours (often double shifts of 16 hours) and are very busy on warmer nights. Coupled with torrential rain, I'm sure the workload wasn't any slower. While he may have seemed to downplay it, please remember that they are now aware of the incident and he may have downplayed it to calm your fear.

Next time, get up off of the couch and take a look out the window. You may have more details to provide to the police.

And yes, everyone turn your porch lights on. 'Tis the season...

Tina Saucier

May 18, 2011 7:14 AM  
Blogger Tom Moertel said...

The original anonymous commenter provided the following additional information, in particular clarifying that the door-knocking was unusually forceful:

I am simply trying to inform local residents that the person or people that banged violently on my screen door came in a car, that's all... When someone bangs violently on my door, my first instinct is not to approach the door.

As far as the officer is concerned "calming my fear" in my opinion is not what this is about. Blog-Lebo brought a worthy news story to my attention otherwise I would have been unaware.

If you would have been in my living room and heard the car pull up, car doors slamming, then heard pounding on the door that could have only come from a lunatic, all within a few seconds, then you personally may have reacted differently, but you didn't experience my exact account.

From the news stories, it seems that modest homes are being targeted, and it is my belief that noisier active neighborhoods are now being targeted to make criminal activity less noticeable.

The WPXI story confirms that the criminals are "knocking on doors," stated from the Mt. Lebanon Police, but it doesn't state whether they use polite knocks or whether scary forceful knocking occurs. All I wanted to do is give an account of the suspicious activity that occurred on my property on Monday night.

May 20, 2011 12:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was simply defending the officer you were criticizing.

I do believe you had every right to be afraid and I am glad you had a dog. I wouldn't mind having one myself even though I have an alarm system in my home. I am also glad that it didn't go any further than it did and that you are safe. But it would be more helpful for the police if they had more information. So along with making the public aware of the incident, they should also know to try to peek out of a window if it is possible or safe to do so. You may have noticed the height and build of the actor(s) and/or the color/make/model of the vehicle. Certainly, never open your door to anyone suspicious and always keep your doors locked!

Based on the information you provided, I feel the officer did everything he could do and I wouldn't consider it "downplayed." They will always come when you call.

You might enjoy learning about our police department at next year's Citizens' Police Academy. They give you an insider's look at what their job entails and you might feel reassured to learn what their protocol is in various situations. They will spend hours answering your questions about how and what they do.

~Tina Saucier

(Perhaps Tom could help get the word out about that next year...)

May 21, 2011 7:44 AM  

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