RED BANK: AUTO THEFTS GRIP REGION

Security video recorded the daytime theft of a white Mercedes from the 7-Eleven at Maple Avenue and West Front Street last August, with the shocked owner giving chase on foot.

By JOHN T. WARD

redbankgreen hot topicWhile towns across New Jersey and beyond grapple with rising numbers of high-priced-vehicle thefts and attempted thefts, local officials are urging residents not to make it easy for perpetrators.

“It goes without saying that the public could help by simply locking their cars,” Red Bank police Chief Darren McConnell told redbankgreen in response to inquiries Tuesday.

“Most high-end vehicle thefts we have had in Red Bank, and pretty much all of them in Monmouth County, have been cars with the keys left in them or where a home was left unsecured and a thief was able to enter the home and obtain the car keys,” he said.

On April 19, a Porsche SUV left running on White Street near Maple Avenue in the borough was stolen in broad daylight as the stunned owner watched from a business he’d gone into.

The Shrewsbury resident ran out to try to stop the theft and fell to the ground without serious injury as the thief sped off.

The vehicle was found the following day in Newark, according to borough police. Such recoveries, McConnell said, “at times lead to the arrest of criminals at the higher end of the chain,” rather than “the juveniles and other offenders who are only stealing individual cars and are likely to get no significant sentences” he said.

“They can also lead to the recovery of numerous cars at one time, without the risk associated with engaging in vehicle pursuits,” McConnell said.

Since that incident, the borough has taken reports of two more auto thefts, McConnell said. “Neither fit the modus operandi of the high-end vehicles” targeted in spree, “though it is not impossible that they are related to these high end theft rings,” McConnell said. Stolen were two work-type trucks parked in the area of Leighton and Locust Avenues overnight last Thursday and Friday, he said.

So far this year, Red Bank has recorded four auto thefts, compared to 11 in all of 2021; McConnell said. The totals in 2019 and 2020 were 4 and 7, respectively.

From McConnell’s email:

As far as what law enforcement is doing, we do have a Monmouth County Auto Theft Task Force, but it is mostly an intelligence sharing system.  We also receive daily briefings from the State Police on up-to-date trends that identify areas where the thieves are currently operating.  [The Monmouth County] Prosecutor’s office and the county police chief’s association had a meeting last week with the Attorney General’s office to collaborate on how to combat this ongoing problem. Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions.

As with most property crimes, prevention is the most valuable tool.  To that end, high-visibility patrols are deployed at night in Red Bank and all other area towns in an attempt to discourage potential thieves from striking…
The bottom line is that every police department in the area is experiencing the same issue; the prosecutor’s office and attorney general’s office are well aware and have engaged in discussions to come up with new methods to combat the thefts.  Enhanced penalties may be helpful in deterring these activities, especially for those organizing the thefts and for those who engage in any violence during a theft or cause an injury through their actions.  That of course is a state legislature issue.
The key to reducing these thefts is for vehicle owners to secure their vehicles and homes therefore making themselves and their property less vulnerable.  Not only will this prevent the loss of property but as we have all seen recently the individuals committing these thefts are doing so in an increasingly reckless and dangerous manner and the risk of an innocent person being seriously injured is very real.

So far this year, Fair Haven has had two auto thefts: one in January and one earlier this month, police Chief Joe McGovern told the council Monday night.

But over the preceding week, there were also at least four reported attempted thefts during daylight hours and three more nighttime attempts “that we know of,” he said.

“They’re out there,” McGovern said of the thieves.

No attempts or thefts have been reported in the borough in recent days, McGovern told redbankgreen Wednesday.

In addition to locking vehicles and taking fobs indoors, motorists should “never, ever, ever leave a child unattended” in a car that’s running or has a key or fob inside, McGovern said. “Even if you’re 10 feet away,” he added.

And if a theft is in progress or suspected, witnesses should call 911, and “never approach” a suspected thief, McGovern said.

In an April 15 message to residents, Fair Haven Mayor Josh Halpern urged those who are “concerned about limits on law enforcement’s ability to apprehend these offenders” because of the state’s limits on police pursuits to contact New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin and local legislators.

On Monday, he issued an open appeal to county and state authorities “for some help here.

“Thoughts and prayers are not going to help us fix this situation,” Halpern said. “We need solutions that actually work. We need the police departments to be able to use their hundreds of years of collective training to decide when and when not to go after the suspects.”

Moreover, residents who leave their vehicles unlocked should not be “victim-shamed,” Halpern said.

“They’re not the criminal,” he said. “They’re not the one that’s creating the crime, coming down here from 60 miles away with the sole intention of going into people’s houses, going into their private automobiles, invading their privacy, now bringing out weapons. It’s something we need intervention on.”

According to Councilman Mike McCue, there have been no reports of thieves entering homes or displaying weapons in Fair Haven, which McGovern confirmed.

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