PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At Pennsylvania’s state stores, the bottles are neatly lined up and ready for sale, but each year, many of them are stolen, broken or are somehow lost, resulting in millions in losses for taxpayers.

Liquor Control Board Chairman Joseph Brion inherited the problem when he took office in January.

“We’re like any other retailer,” he said. “There is sometimes theft. There is sometimes breakage. There [are] sometimes issues that you have to deal with.”

Our investigation found that in 2010, the state’s liquor stores lost $3 million worth of booze. They did a little better in 2011, losing $2.5 million worth of wine and spirits.

In our area, the losses mounted up.

In 2010 at the One Oxford Center store downtown, they had nearly $2,300 worth of bottles broken. Another $9,500 in inventory was lost or stolen, bringing total losses to $12,000.

They did better in 2011 when losses totaled $3,800.

At the Waterworks Mall in Fox Chapel, in 2010 more than $2,600 in bottles were broken. Another $8,700 disappeared. Total losses – $11,351.

Last year, losses were down to about $8,800.

But the biggest losses found in our area were in East Liberty at the state store on Penn Circle south. Someone had slippery fingers because in 2010, they broke nearly $7,000 worth of bottles.

And they must have had some thirsty thieves because $18,000 in wine and spirits turned up missing – a grand total $25,000 in booze, gone.

There was some improvement last year, but losses still topped $17,000.

One of the things that run the numbers up so high is the very liberal breakage policy the state stores have.

If you buy a bottle of wine and take it out to your car or take it home and break it, you can bring the bottle cap back – still sealed – and they’ll replace it for you free. No questions asked.

The head of the LCB defends the practice and promises to do better, but for the taxpayers-slash-customers the losses are hard to swallow.

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