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'Middletown Is a Safe Place' Say Shoppers and Merchants

A violent act is not enough to shake a sense of security for some residents, but they say it will make them more wary.

The day after a mother shopping with a baby was viciously knifed at Bed Bath & Beyond, people at the Route 35 shopping plaza said they still feel safe in Middletown. 

Residents said they felt it was a random act of violence, and unexpected in the township of 67,000 which likes to call itself "The biggest small town in America," a place where the township police force will be well-staffed with 103 officers next week, and a dedicated Quality of Life unit aggressively pursues hot spots.  

"I'm totally, totally shocked," said Teashy Burns of the Oak Hill section of Middletown, who teared up upon learning about the incident in the parking lot of Bed Bath & Beyond, where she was stopping to return a purchase. "I feel safe in Middletown, all the time. But I'm going to have my guard up." 

Inside the busy housewares store Friday, it seemed like business as usual. Two somber-faced managers stood near the front door, and sometimes stepped outside to observe television crews surrounding shoppers in the parking lot. They declined to answer any questions about the incident, currently under investigation by the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, but without giving their names offered that the company's heartfelt "thoughts and prayers" were with the victim and her family. 

Outside Staples, Stephanie McAlary of Middletown, a 22-year old college student picking up posterboard and bubble wrap for a return to campus said she did not feel her hometown was a dangerous place. "But it will make me more aware," she said.

Merchants in neighboring stores said they were saddened by the events yesterday, Khalid Channa, owner of Harmony Natural Foods and a longtime resident said "Middletown is a safe place. I hope she survives for her baby. She's a mother," he said. 

An employee there, Barbara Balchus, said she was especially troubled by the crime in her hometown because she thinks she saw the suspect loitering in the parking lot, when she left her job at 3:10 p.m "He seemed to be walking around aimlessly," she recalled. "He had his head down."

But she didn't think much it. "In four years working here, I've never felt uncomfortable," she said. 

At Benjamin Moore Paints, employee Christopher Angelos of Middletown said a customer came in last night and told them about the stabbing incident, and described seeing the victim on a stretcher. "It's tragic, what happened," he said. "She was with her kid, and that's frightening."

The life at the shopping plaza is very quiet, he said, and violent acts like this are not typical of life in all. "It's very, very strange," said Angelos. 

marylou January 19, 2013 at 08:53 PM
And how would having a gun or mace prevent someone from stabbing you in the back?
Tom January 20, 2013 at 03:58 AM
The suspects face and name is not familiar to me. Did he grow up in Middletown? What is his background?
Gary Junstrom January 20, 2013 at 04:51 AM
I don't think that this one incident carried out by a lone psychopath is a reflection on the town as a whole. While I still feel safe here, we live in an increasingly dangerous world, so being aware of the people around you is the way we have to live. Oh how I wish I could get a carry permit.
George Brons January 21, 2013 at 11:04 PM
Middletown is the safest town any one can live in. Maybe this is the second murder that has accured in M.T. in 20 years. Find another town like that? You won't. M.T. spends massive amounts of energy and other wise from local residents who care about the town and our childrens future. Hundreds if not thousands of people create an environment that is the envy of every township in the country. I came from one place Middletown Township and I am proud of it. I live in FL now but M.T. will always be my home. Where did I come from? I came from Middletown Township N.J. For everyone who makes me feel that way and there is a long long list of them I hope we can make others feel and appreciate what an awesome town it is.
George Brons January 22, 2013 at 12:16 AM
Lots of talk about the Sandy Hook incident and no body who lives in M.T. is not familar with that name. Many people want to blame guns. Guns don't kill people the people behind them do. A recurring event seems to me that in every case it's mentally ill people resonsible for these horrific acts. Not guns. That Sandy Hook kid in CT had serious mental issues. shoots the person who loved him the most his mother and then went on a rampage. He could have used anything for the carnage. Guns of his mom's (even more interesting) where his weapon of choice.

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