Morristown police are on the lookout for an “opportunist” who they believe is responsible for some 60 burglaries over the last two months, Police Chief Pete Demnitz said at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Their “prime suspect” has struck all over town, and probably in Morris Township and Morris Plains, too. Sometimes entries are forced, but in quite a few cases the suspect enters through open windows or unlocked doors.
Jewelry is the suspect’s preferred target–gold is commanding record prices and is easy to fence— and laptop computers are disappearing as well, according to the chief.
So why haven’t police arrested the suspect?
“Everybody knows who the burglar is. The problem is the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. You can’t just say ‘we know who the person is,'” the chief said.
They need to catch the crook red-handed. So far, the suspect is not cooperating.
“This is a person who knows surveillance very well and knows technology very well, and he does this for a living and he doesn’t want to get caught,” said Chief Demnitz, who beseeched residents to become more vigilant and cooperate with each other and with police.
Neighborhoods have grown more vulnerable with the rise of two-income households; fewer residents are home, he said. And fewer neighbors know each other. The chief cited one case where a van backed up to a house, robbed it and drove off–because neighbors were oblivious to who belonged there.
“The pendulum has swung back to where the government can’t do everything anymore,” the chief said. “We simply need more help from the communities we serve. Most of it is eyes and ears, and picking up the phone.”
A pair of Speedwell Avenue residents said they want more help from police, however, after five burglaries in two weeks.
“I’m concerned for the safety of my family. My wife is afraid to be home alone,” said John Zuluaga, whose home was robbed of money and his wife’s rings. He said five homes in his neighborhood all were robbed during daylight hours.
Speedwell needs more lights and more police, said Martha Jimenez.
“We never see a police car around…we just want to feel they are not forgetting us,” she said, citing burglaries all around her. “I’m afraid maybe I’m next.”
Councilwoman Michelle Harris-King suggested the residents start a Neighborhood Watch program. Martha said they were doing so, despite difficult work schedules. Councilwoman Rebecca Feldman mentioned burglary prevention tips issued by the police bureau. A recent Second Ward meeting to discuss the burglaries was well attended, said Councilwoman Raline Smith-Reid.
Here are some “Burglary Basics” tips from the police:
FROM THE MORRISTOWN POLICE
The Burglary Basics
The MOST important thing YOU can do is CALL THE POLICE to report a CRIME or any SUSPICIOUS activity. You have to be the eyes of your neighborhood. And remember you can always remain a pair of anonymous eyes!
- Light up your residence, lock your doors at all times, and call the Police when you see something suspicious.
- Make your home look occupied, and make it difficult to break in.
- Lock all outside doors and windows before you leave the house or go to bed. Even if it is for a short time, lock your doors.
- Leave lights on when you go out. If you are going to be away for a length of time,connect some lamps to automatic timers to turn them on in the evening and off during the day.
- Keep your garage door closed and locked.
- Don’t allow daily deliveries of mail, newspapers or flyers build up while you are away.
- Arrange with the Post Office to hold your mail, or arrange for a friend or neighbor to take them regularly.
- Arrange for your lawn to be mowed if you are going away for an extended time.
- Check your locks on doors and windows and replace them with secure devices as necessary.
- Push button locks on doorknobs are easy for burglars to open. Install deadbolt locks on all your outside doors.
- Sliding glass doors are vulnerable. Special locks are available for better security.
- Other windows may need better locks. Check with a locksmith or hardware store for alternatives.
- Lawn mowers, barbecues and bicycles are best stored out of sight
- Always lock your garden sheds and garages.
- Use curtains on garage and basement windows.
- Never leave notes on your door such as “Gone shopping.”
- Change locks immediately if your keys are lost or stolen.
- When moving into a new home, have all locks changed.
- Have adequate exterior lighting. A motion-sensitive light is recommended for backyards.
- Trim trees and shrubs so that they cannot be used as hiding places for intruders.
- Make sure your door hinges are on the inside.
- Most windows can be pinned for security.
- Drill a 3/16″ hole on a slight downward slant through the inside window frame and halfway into the outside frame – place a nail in the hole to secure the window.
- An alarm system is excellent for home security. It provides peace of mind to homeowners, especially while on vacation. There is a wide variety of alarm systems on the market.
- Make several inquiries to different companies for the best security system available to you.
- If you have a home alarm system, use it! Activate your alarm system — Alarm systems are only useful when you remember to activate them.
- Many individuals have alarm systems but do not arm them because it is inconvenient. Many burglars know this and will not be deterred by a window sticker or sign indicating that the home has an alarm system.
If Your Home Is Broken Into: If you come home to find an unexplained open/broken window or door:
- Do not enter – the perpetrator may still be inside.
- Use a neighbor’s phone to call police.
- Do not touch anything or clean up until the police have inspected for evidence.
- Write down the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
- Note the descriptions of any suspicious persons.
Other precautions you should take:
- Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other “secret” hiding places – – burglars know where to look for hidden keys.
- Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase and original value, and serial numbers, and keep a copy in a safe place away from home — this is a good precaution in case of fires or other disasters.
- Make a photographic or video record of valuable objects, heirlooms and antiques. Your insurance company can provide assistance in making and keeping your inventory.
- Trim your shrubbery around your home to reduce cover for burglars.
- Be a good neighbor. If you notice anything suspicious in your neighborhood, call 9-1-1 immediately.
- Mark your valuables with your driver’s license number with an engraver you can borrow from your precinct. Marked items are harder for a burglar to dispose of and easier for police to recover.
- Form a Neighborhood Watch Group. We can help you work with your neighbors to improve security and reduce risk of burglary.
- Consider installing a burglar alarm system.
Tips on how to avoid car break-ins:
- Do not leave valuables in plain view: (GPS devices, lap tops, PDA’s, cell phones, MP3’s, wallets, purses)
- Do not leave windows or sunroof open.
- Do not leave doors unlocked.
- Do not leave keys in the vehicle.
- Do not leave the garage door opener in plain view.
- Do not leave out items with personal information.
- So not move valuable items to the trunk while in public view.
- Slow Down and use common sense before you leave your car.