A burglary ring was broken up when six people were charged today for a series of vehicle break-ins and burglaries that occurred in Pine Township and other communities, police said.
Michael A. Welsh, 20; Jesse Brazell, 24; Joshua L. Evans, 24; Jesse Evans, 22; Michael Hirschfield 24; and Richard Glynn, 23, were charged in a series of vehicle break-ins and burglaries that occurred in Pine Township, Cranberry Township, Moon, Franklin Park, Jefferson Hills, Mount Lebanon, and several surrounding communities between March 2009 and November 2010.
All of the men are from Allegheny County.
State police said the men told them they would target suburban neighborhoods because people in those areas believed they are safer. Often the items stolen were not hidden from sight or were in unlocked vehicles, according to police.
Northern Regional Police Chief Robert Amann said the incidents affected Pine and Marshall townships, but not Richland. He said the thieves would move around the townships with "no rhyme or reason, no set pattern."
Moon Police Chief Leo McCarthy said law enforcement agencies from Allegheny, Washington, Butler and Mercer counties as well as Pennsylvania State Police collaborated in the months-long investigation, which has since resulted in four more arrests. Two of the men involved, McCarthy said, are still at large.
"(Northern Regional) Detective Jeff Hoffman stayed with it for the entire investigation and worked hand in hand with the other departments," said Amann.
McCarthy said the men in the alleged ring worked together to target suburban communities easily accessible from major highways. They stole thousands of dollars-worth of items, including a motorcycle, from unlocked vehicles and unsecured garages.
Altogether, McCarthy said, the group may be responsible for up to 65 thefts across four counties. Cranberry Police Sgt. Chuck Mascellino said all the thefts that occurred in Cranberry Township were from what he described as "a lot" of vehicle break-ins.
"These are primarily cases of theft from a vehicle," McCarthy said. "They entered unsecured cars and garages -- it was rare that a vehicle was broken into when it was locked."
McCarthy said police apprehended Jesse and Joshua Evans in West Virginia, where they remain jailed. He said officers in other jurisdictions have arrested two of the other men involved, though he was not sure of their names.
Nine pages of specific charges were released this afternoon by police.
Northern Regional Police Department charged Jesse Brazell and Michael Hirschfield with theft, receiving stolen property, loitering and prowling at night, and criminal attempt to commit theft from motor vehicles on March 8, 2009.
Moon, Cranberry, Ohio, Franklin Park and Crescent townships' police departments listed multiple charges for all six arrestees, as well as Hermitage, Canonsburg, Jefferson Hills and Mount Lebanon police departments.
McCarthy said fingerprints were used to identify the men involved. He added the men often would leave items behind at crime scenes.
He said that after the Evans brothers were apprehended in West Virginia, they provided a statement to Moon detectives that led to the identification of several of the other men involved.
Pennsylvania State Police said the men stole handguns and rifles, small electronics such as iPods, laptops and GPS systems as well as purses and wallets. Many of the items were sold for cash
Pine-Richland Patch Editor Cindy Cusic Micco and Cranberry Patch Editor Jessica Sinichak contributed to this story.