Hey, it’s public property, right? And it’s not doing anything but decorating a vacant lot with a bunch of trees and stuff, so why not just take it?
That kind of logic was apparently at work earlier this month when someone stole half the fence fronting the Bellhaven Nature Area, a small but enchanting patch of wetlands with an education trail at the western end of Locust Avenue in Red Bank.
But thanks to a nearby resident and basic police work, a suspect was caught with a load of fence sections in his truck.
It turns out he works in the fence-installation business.
The crime, first reported in this week’s Hub, occurred March 5. Arrested and charged with theft of about $800 worth of property borough property was Robert Herold, 29, of Highlands, who was associated with a company called The Fence Guys, according to police Lt. Steve McCarthy, who heads the detective bureau.
The Fence Guys is listed in the phone book at 68 Bay Avenue, Highlands.
Herold was questioned on the scene by police after a neighbor alerted them that the fence was in the process of being taken. The suspect “said he was there under contract to replace the fence with a new fence,” McCarthy said. When police found that story to be bogus, they arrested him.
Though police recovered some of the pilfered sections, others are still missing.
Herold was to have been arraigned in municipal court yesterday. No information about that proceeding was immediately available.
McCarthy said it’s the first borough case of a stolen fence that he can recall from a 20-year-plus career in law enforcement. The motives of the alleged perpetrator remain unclear, he said.
“There’s two possibilities that I see, and we don’t have any direct indication” as to which might explain it, McCarthy said. The fence sections “could presumably have been used at another job site,” he said. The other leading possibilitiy is that the fence, which is aluminum, was taken for its scrap value. Metal prices, said McCarthy, are high.
redbankgreen asked McCarthy about a rumor going around that someone videotaped the crime in progress, but McCarthy said he knew nothing about it. “I’d be interested in that also,” he said.
YouTube devotees: please let us know if this gem pops up.
The case of the hot fence caught the attention of the folks from the Red Bank Environmental Commission, which used grant money to create the nature area, complete with an education trail along the upper reaches of the Navesink River. The project was completed about year ago.
The fence is important because “it kind of delineates it as a nature area, as opposed to a place where people can just throw garbage,” said commission member Boris Kofman. “Because that’s really how it was used until we turned it into a nature area.”