Local man unable to retrieve items from tent in homeless encampment after bag was stolen from car

PITTSBURGH — It’s an unusual situation. A local man had valuables stolen out of his car and saw the person who took them and where they might be. However, he couldn’t retrieve his things.

Jeff Martin returned to his car after a party Saturday night to find his trunk open.

“I thought it was odd, but maybe I hit the button on my remote control,” Martin said.

He looked around and noticed a bag containing clothes, Air Pods and Ray-Ban sunglasses was missing.

The next morning, he says he went back to the area to see if someone had emptied the bag and left it lying along the roadside. Then, he got a surprise.

“I look up and there’s a guy wearing my work hoodie. It’s a brand-new sweatshirt. The guy’s wearing my work hoodie. I just shook my head and laughed,” he said.

Martin followed the man and came to a homeless encampment. Police met Martin at the spot and told him he could get anything outside but couldn’t go inside the tent. He was able to recover his bag and some clothing items.

“I was shocked. I had no idea. I mean, they don’t own the property. They pitch their tent wherever but, because that’s their home, we couldn’t go in,” Martin said.

WPXI legal analyst Phil DiLucente says it’s a complicated issue.

“Here, we have an interesting set of facts because this tent is on public property, but yet is used for overnight accommodation,” DiLucente said.

Entering the tent could lead to a burglary charge, depending on one thing.

“What was the intent of the person that may want to go in and find that lost belonging? That’s the real issue,” DiLucente said. “[The case is] not cut and dry at all. This is almost like a bar school exam question.”

Channel 11 reached out to Pittsburgh Police. We’re told the incident is still under investigation. Martin says he plans on talking with investigators again Wednesday.

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