More than 30 break-ins and burglaries have been reported in Ocean Grove in the last three and a-half months and while police are actively looking for the perpetrators, they urge residents to use due diligence in protecting their properties.
“Everybody is working on this. It is not something where we are just sitting back and taking reports on break-ins. We are on this,” said Neptune’s Chief Financial Officer Michael Bascom, who is also the township’s acting-police director.
Bascom also said residents should be mindful not to provide criminals with opportunities to commit crimes.
“These are crimes of opportunity with many residences having open windows, unlocked doors, and no lights on. If people just take simple protective measures and report suspicious activities it could make a big dent and possibly help us catch the perpetrators. When they enter a house it is sometimes as easy as opening a door and walking in,” he said.
“We do have a few suspects we have targeted as committing these crimes. We are actively investigating and making attempts to arrest these subjects,” he said.
Deputy Police Chief James Hunt Jr. urges Ocean Grove residents to call police immediately if they see any suspicious activities.
Hunt said police believe it is more than one person committing these crimes and that extra police have been assigned to Ocean Grove.
“We have marked and unmarked units in Ocean Grove as well as plain-clothed officers,” he said.
Hunt said there is no apparent pattern to the break-ins and that local businesses where any items could be fenced are also being investigated. He said the thieves are taking mostly jewelry, money and smaller items.
“They are stealing stuff that they can usually just put into their pockets and carry away,” he said.
Also, he said people are usually finding out about the burglaries after-the-fact.
“Sometimes it is in a summer-only occupied home or people have been away for a few weeks,” he said.
Yet Hunt remains optimistic that the criminals will be apprehended.
“Very much so – but we need a break here, particularly a call coming in and catching somebody in the act,” he said.
Township officials said they also plan to hold a joint meeting with various leadership groups in Ocean Grove in the near future. The township has already sent out a reverse-911 telephone message to inform residents about the recurring burglaries.
“We want to bring them up to speed on what we are doing,” Bascom said.
Ocean Grove Homeowners Association President Ann Horan said the burglaries are “a tremendous concern” amongst her membership.
“Everybody is talking about it and I have been getting a lot of calls about it,” she said.
Horan said a meeting with township officials over the matter is a good idea and that the monthly association meeting is this Saturday.
“Just call us and we will be there,” she said.
One concern among residents it that the break-ins seem to be getting more aggressive and destructive as time goes by.
“There have been windows broken and the level of destruction to houses has increased. At least that’s what I’m hearing,” she said.
Horan said she would like to see the Neighborhood Watches get into action, especially in the winter when the population in Ocean Grove drops, and that she would like residents to be more wary of what is going on around them.
“People need to make sure they keep their lights on and keep an eye out for what’s going on around them. This is what we will be talking about this Saturday,” she said.
Township Committeeman Randy Bishop, who owns a bed and breakfast in Ocean Grove, said residents should heed the warning of police and secure their properties.
“I encourage people to call police immediately if they see any suspicious activity. Keep your windows and doors locked. Most crimes like this are crimes of opportunity,” he said.
Pictured above – Ocean Grove as seen from Lake Avenue along Wesley Lake. File photo.
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