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3.22.24 – WPXI -By Rick Earle, Channel 11 Chief Investigative Reporter

PITTSBURGH — After a downtown clothing store was hit by a burglar twice this week, 11 Investigates has discovered there’s some confusion over the response to the burglaries by Pittsburgh police.

At a news conference in February, Chief Larry Scirotto announced a number of operational and staffing changes to the Bureau.

Among them, he said officers would only respond to a burglary alarm if there is a second verification, such as a motion sensor.

“When I got here the number two calls were for alarms,” said Chief Scirotto.

Scirotto said there were too many false alarms and he said he was changing the way officers respond to burglary alarms.

“It’s not that we won’t respond to alarms. It’s that we are going to require there to be a second verification, a second authentication factor such as it’s not just the front door, there’s interior motion, there’s video, there’s audio, there’s glass break, there’s some other factor to support that the call is more probable to be in progress than not,” said Scirotto last month.

But after two burglaries this week at this downtown clothing store on Smithfield Street where the suspect got away with nearly 20-thousand dollars in clothing, the police department is now apparently backtracking.

Multiple law enforcement sources tell 11 Investigates during one of the break-ins, officers did not immediately respond to the alarm because of the new directive.

The alarm company notified the owner and sources said the owner discovered the burglary in progress.

“Last time he busted that window this time he busted this window,” said store owner Walid Yasin.

Because of the staffing cuts overnight, sources said there were no police cars downtown, and officers from Squirrel Hill responded but by the time they arrived to the Smithfield Street location the suspect was gone.

Despite the changes unveiled last month, a police spokesperson said Friday that the new policy restricting response to alarms has not been implemented yet.

“The protocol will not be in place until there is a very clear understanding at all levels of what verified response is and what it is not,” said dept of Public Safety spokesperson Cara Cruz.

Cruz said an email went out to supervisors advising them that all officers should still be responding to burglary alarms like they have in the past.

Before the email, 11 Investigates spoke with a number of officers and they were all very confused about the policy.

They said they didn’t know whether to respond to the alarms or not.

The police spokesperson blamed the troubled response to that downtown burglary on an error by a supervisor.

She said the problem with the supervisor has been addressed and police do have a suspect in the burglary of the clothing store.