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To Discourage Burglaries, Bernards Police Urge Residents to 'Call Us'

Two recent burglaries spur information session about preventing crime, hosted Monday by Bernards Township police.

Bernards Police Lt. Ted Reese was one of the primary speakers at a public forum Monday to discuss burglary prevention. By Linda Sadlouskos
Bernards Police Lt. Ted Reese was one of the primary speakers at a public forum Monday to discuss burglary prevention. By Linda Sadlouskos
Following two burglaries in The Hills section of the Basking Ridge on Jan. 18, the Bernards Township police department hosted a crime prevention seminar Monday that filled the new meeting room at town hall.

The bare-bones news was that, as of Monday, there had been five burglaries in Bernards Township so far in 2014, four in residences. 

The township police department received 29 reports of burglary in 2013, and 32 in 2012, Police Lt. Mike Sweeney told the crowd.

"This is not a problem that is going to go away," said Somerset County Prosecutor's Office Detective Jeff Dockery. "You live in an affluent area," he said, noting that thieves know there are things to steal — such as the jewelry, cash and sometimes, Apple electronics, that are commonly taken by burglars.

Nevertheless, it was mentioned several times that, statistically, residents who live in Basking Ridge still have a relatively small chance of having their homes broken into. However, the focus of the evening was on ways to further reduce that likelihood.

The two most recent burglaries — which occurred in a similar time frame, in relatively close proximity — also were of homes belonging to Indian residents. 

Sweeney said that some thieves target homes with Indian residents because they believe those families will have gold in their homes that may be associated with celebrations or religious occasions.

The law enforcement officials leading the conversation, including Bernards Police Chief Brian Bobowicz, Sweeney, Dockery, Sgt. Scott Ward and Lt. Ted Reese, urged residents to place such valuables in a safe deposit box in a bank, or at least a safe deposit box in the home.

Since burglars typically enter a home quickly, and head straight for the master bedroom to ransack drawers, closets and other obvious hiding places, Reese suggested that any valuables in the home might be placed in a place harder to find — even a dusty corner of a garage.

The officers also encouraged residents to quickly report any burglaries since gold is quickly melted down, and law enforcement officials have only a short period of time in which to track such pieces.

Ward suggested that residents might take photographs of jewelry kept around the house, and also keep a record of the serial numbers of Apple products. "Tell us quickly," he urged.

Sweeney said that police investigations include following up with area pawn shops — but those shops are not required to keep the items on hand beyond a few days.

Police said that the most common entry into homes during recent burglaries has been by forced entry through a rear door or windows.

Bobowicz mentioned that there are products on the market, such as a door club, that can make it harder to break in through doors.

But the presenters said that professional burglars can even work quickly to finish their work in the few minutes between when an alarm goes off, and police arrive.

The consensus of the speakers seemed to be that residents should do everything they could to make homes appear as if someone is home — especially since most burglaries occur during daytime hours when residents would likely be in work, or when the home's occupants are away for a weekend or vacation.

"We want you to make your house look occupied," Reese said. 

He and others urged residents to use props to make it look as if someone is in the middle of a job around the house, to turn on lights and televisions remotely, to install motion detector lights or in other ways make it seem as if a person would be be home in an intruder entered.

The officers also advised that if a person in a house encounters a burglar, and is given the choice of either fight or flight, they should leave the home immediately, preferably bringing a cell phone.

Bobowicz said that burglars in neighborhoods don't always look or dress in a way that might be assumed. He said they might be dressed as landscapers, delivery persons or — in an office environment — like a business professional.

Police said that anyone in town who legitimately is canvassing is supposed to have a permit the town, and asked that residents call to report anything or anyone that might be suspicious.

That might include people ringing doorbells, unfamiliar cars circling streets or any other situation that might seem odd. 

Reese reminded the audience that cell phone cameras, the internet and social media all are ways of spreading information. Cell phone cameras can be used to snap shots — including license plates — of vehicles that appear suspicious, he noted.

"Every person in this room potentially is a reporter and a crime advocate for us," Reese said. "If you see something you don't think is right, please call us."

Police also posted a list of tips to discourage burglars on the Bernards Township website.
Lawyer1 January 29, 2014 at 06:18 AM
How about adopting a dog......suggestion.
Stella Perna January 29, 2014 at 11:25 AM
Use a "fake" TV: www.homesecuritystore.com has two kinds that gives the impression that someone is home watching TV. Also, use lawn signs from friends who have extra security service signs. This will deter the petty thieves. Lastly, place tricycles, balls, etc. on your driveway to give the appearance that kids were just outside playing and now are inside having lunch.

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