By: Kimberly Redmond
Following an uptick in burglaries in the western part of the county, several local police departments, along with the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, have launched a joint task force to combat crime.
The initiative, announced on Feb. 6 by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II, includes Caldwell, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell, Roseland, Verona, West Caldwell and Livingston.
“One of the most effective ways of extending the reach of law enforcement is by sharing information and personnel,” Stephens said in a press release on the new task force.
“Criminals do not recognize borders particularly when it comes to property crimes. By working together, we can identify patterns that we hope will enable us to solve crimes quicker and disrupt criminal crews that may be working in multiple communities,” the acting prosecutor added.
Officers from the nine departments will focus on three aspects of crime prevention: deterrence, education and detection, he said. And, they’ll coordinate on activities such as safety checkpoints and cooperative patrols, Stephens said.
Forming a joint initiative came about after local law enforcement “saw a need to help each other combat auto thefts and burglaries” in the county, North Caldwell Police Chief Mark Deuer said.
“Although we have always had a great working relationship with each other, this new unit brings us all together as one team with one mission,” said Deuer, who also serves as president of the West Essex Chiefs Association.
In recent months, several communities in the western part of the county have experienced increases in the number of unlocked cars being broken into, particularly during the evening hours. Last summer, an Irvington man was arrested in connection with over two dozen vehicle break ins reported in Verona and Fairfield.
In some instances, cars with key fobs left inside have been stolen. In other cases, residents have left personal belongings, such as wallets, purses, cell phones and laptop computers, in plain sight that include information that made them vulnerable to identity theft.
Each year, more than $1.2 billion in personal items and accessories are swiped from cars in the U.S., according to data from CNN. Experts estimate that there are about 1.85 million thefts a year, as well as thousands and thousands of attempted break ins.
Some general safety tips from police include: Park in busy, well-lit areas and avoid concealment from larger vehicles. The greater the chance that someone may see a crime in progress, the more a thief will be deterred, lock the doors, and close windows and the sunroof, either hide from plain sight or remove all valuables (cash, iPad adapters, power plugs, GPS units). Also, remove any items with personal identifiers (wallets, vehicle papers such as registration, and cell phones) and use the trunk to store shopping bags instead of keeping them in plain view. Don’t leave a garage door opener in the car and don’t leave your car running when you pop into a store to grab something quickly. Finally, consider an anti-theft system, such as an alarm, steering wheel locks, steering column collars or brake pedal locks.