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Caught on Camera

ERIE, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania storeowner is cracking down on shoplifters by merging cutting-edge digital technology with crime-fighting methods straight out of the Wild West --"wanted" posters.

There are currently four posters on a wall at Dan Serafin's Food Market, each showing an alleged crime in progress. Serafin, who said the posters are a shoplifting deterrent, said signs notifying the public they are being monitored didn't work.

"You don't see a simple written warning now, you see the end result," Serafin told the Associated Press. "There is no doubt the cameras are real and the people on the camera are busted."

Shoplifting has dropped off dramatically since the wanted posters went up, Serafin said, and he feels much safer. Serafin said when he puts up a poster only when there is no doubt the person was shoplifting, the report said.

"My dad is 75 and he's been punched and kicked trying to stop somebody who was shoplifting a $2 product," Serafin said. "We're not putting our lives on the line for that stuff anymore. You can run away, but I've got your picture and somebody is going to recognize you."

The grocery uses an 18-camera digital video system created by ADT Security Services Inc. of Boca Raton, Fla.

Digital technology has advanced tremendously in the past two years, said George Jacob, video products manager at ADT, which has allowed smaller retailers to install comparatively complex surveillance systems, the report said.

He said the digital format on ADT products is protected so that it cannot be altered, and the video is almost universally accepted in court as evidence.

Police in Erie agree, and say most thefts that have been recorded do not make it to trial before a defendant cops a plea. Police could not say how many cases they have handled involve digital imaging, the report said.

Serafin said he has no plans to discontinue use of the wanted posters in his store.
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