Park Police investigating car break-ins at Loantaka Reservation during holiday

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Crime never takes a holiday.

Someone made that clear on the Fourth of July, breaking into at least three vehicles at the Loantaka Brook Reservation.

Leigh Weinman parked at the Kitchell Road lot in Morris Township and set out on a peaceful 40-minute stroll on Saturday afternoon.

Loantaka Brook Reservation. Photo courtesy of the Morris County Park Commission

She returned to discover her passenger window smashed, her purse missing, and fraudulent charges already appearing on her credit card.

Another vehicle parked on the other side of that  lot met with a similar fate, she said.

“I’m not angry, I’m sad,” Weinman said, noting  some sentimental items were stolen.

“And frankly, I’m feeling a bit unsafe right now. It’s creepy thinking you were being watched and targeted.”

Her purse had been concealed from view inside the car; she suspects the perpetrator(s) observed her walking without one and deduced it was secreted somewhere in the vehicle.

Plenty of people were present at that time, around 5:30 pm, Weinman said. She thought someone must have seen the crooks, “but no. They are pros. Must have gotten in and out quickly and figured out how to break the window without it being noisy,” said the Township resident.

Morris County Park Police also are investigating a third break-in, at the park’s Loantaka Way lot in Chatham, said Capt. Joseph Milancewich.

The incidents occurred between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm on Independence Day, Milancewich said. Asked if  they are connected to any other car break-ins in the area, he answered, “It’s possible.”

He declined to disclose further details, explaining the investigation is ongoing. The officer urged park visitors to secure valuables out of sight, remain vigilant, and report anything suspicious to 973-326-7654.

A Park Police vehicle had been parked conspicuously near Loantaka’s South Street entrance on Saturday, which apparently deterred break-ins in that lot, Weinman said.

Security cameras would be welcome additions to the heavily used reservation, she said. Loantaka spans 883 acres and includes nearly 10 miles of trails.

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