The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 10, 2013

Update: Pittsburgh bomb squad busy with anti-theft devices

PITTSBURGH — The city police bomb squad was busy responding to three overnight reports of suspicious devices found along city streets that turned out to be anti-theft devices used by stores, perhaps discarded as shoplifters drove away.

Still, officials are glad that residents are reporting such events rather than ignoring them.

“Better safe than sorry,” police spokeswoman Diane Richard said Friday. “In the wake of the Boston Marathon and all the other bomb threats that go on across the nation, the fact that they’re reporting what they’re seeing and are vigilant makes it easier for us to keep the public safe.”

The first call came in just after 11 p.m. Thursday, and two more were reported Friday, at 12:09 a.m. and 8:22 a.m., on two streets in the city’s South Side, a working-class neighborhood that’s been redeveloped as a hub of restaurants, nightlife and even some new shopping areas.

The plastic devices, which are equipped to beep and which hang from retail products by a small wire, were found wrapped in foil which, at first, made them appear even more suspicious, police said.

But now police believe the foil may have been wrapped around the devices to keep them from sounding shoplifting alarms so thieves could leave a store undetected. Police haven’t determined what store the devices came from, or the type of retail merchandise to which they had been attached.

Because all three devices were found in a half-mile area, police believe someone may have thrown them from a passing car, perhaps as they hastily removed tags and other identification from stolen merchandise.

Police were initially wary of the reports because they came in fairly rapid succession in the same neighborhood. Bomb squad officials destroyed the first item then discovered the second one had been run over by a vehicle before they arrived. The third device was still beeping as a piece of foil nearby appeared to have blown off the device, police said.

Investigators don’t believe the devices “were placed there as a prank or by a person trying to be vicious or vindictive or anything like that,” Richard said.


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