FRAZER TOWNSHIP, Pa. (KDKA) -- Using security cameras to catch criminals isn't new, but one local police department says while they're using cameras to catch those who steal, they're also using them to help those who shoplift to feed their children.
Frazer Township Chief Terry Kuhns said shoplifting crimes are up but they're finding a more holistic approach to help those who steal food and not big ticket items.
Cameras are everywhere around Pittsburgh Mills.
"They call them the LPRs, license plate reader cameras," Kuhns said.
The system patches the various retailers' surveillance cameras into the police department and they've been very effective when it comes to catching alleged shoplifters.
"We have a lot of people who come up there and they steal televisions, big flat screens, computers, electronic devices," he said.
But many times, these electric eyes reveal that in some cases, what's being stolen aren't big ticket items at all.
"We encounter somebody stealing milk, cereal, diapers, baby formula, we handle those types of individuals in a completely different manner," he said.
Instead of throwing the book at them, Kuhns says, "We're just not there to arrest people, we're here -- more than have to -- to help them if they need help. That's what police officers should do."
Kuhns says one of the first things they do is tell the offender there are options that don't involve theft.
"We've actually asked them to come with us back to our station here and we sit down and make phone calls for them to connect them with the different agencies," he said.
Kuhns says a helping hand instead of handcuffs builds a bridge and in many cases gives families and providers on the brink a lifeline.
"We've actually had people come back six months later and thank us and say, 'hey, I just want to let you know you guys helped me,'" he said.
Kuhns says this way of handling these types of crimes is something that many departments are doing because it works.
for more features.