A first floor window is ajar, though you distinctly remember closing it. Inside your house you find jewelry and electronics missing and your peace of mind gone with it.
A burglary is any homeowner’s worst nightmare. For several Monmouth County residents, this nightmare became a reality with a string of break-ins reported in , , and in March.
John Pouso of Little Silver said his family was shaken following a daytime burglary of their Silverton Avenue home on March 9.
"We leave lights on all night long, can't sleep,” Pouso wrote in an email to Patch. “Looked into an alarm system but there isn't much more they can take, we are almost cleaned out."
Pouso, who believes his teenage daughter’s arrival home interrupted the theft, isn’t the only victim of recent burglaries in the borough. Jewelry was reported home on Monday, March 19.
The next weekend, another house on Silverside Avenue and a Parker Avenue residence were hit, according to Little Silver police. The Silverside Avenue homeowner was inside when the intruder entered late Saturday, March 24, and jewelry was reported missing from the Parker Avenue home after it was forcibly entered late Saturday or early Sunday, March 25, said Little Silver Police Chief Daniel Shaffery.
In Marlboro, responded to break-ins at three residences within two miles of one another on Sunday, March 18. An alarm system scared off suspects from one of the homes; jewelry and electronics were taken from the others. Police established a perimeter but did not take anyone into custody.
In Matawan, a Perth Amboy man allegedly broke into a Miriam Drive house on March 3 while the on vacation and stole jewelry, according to Lt. Ben Smith of the Matawan Police Department. In a separate incident, a Point Pleasant man and a second unidentified suspect are accused of entering a Main Street home on two occasions and taking over $600 in cash.
In Manalapan, instances of residential and car burglaries saw an uptick in March, according to Capt. Chris Marsala. Of the 11 reported thefts between March 13 and March 24, five included forced entry into a home.
Tracking Down Stolen Goods
In the case Miriam Drive burglary, Matawan police tied Luis Miguel Valdez-Blanco, 18, of Perth Amboy to the break-in with the tried and true staple of the evidence log: fingerprints.
However, officers also have high-tech options available to them when it comes to electronics. The top of the line devices thieves covet come with GPS tracking and serial numbers linked to the original owner that make it easier for police to find a suspect, according to Lt. Mark Wodell with the Freehold Borough Police Department.
“The Apple products are much easier [to identify as stolen] because of the serial numbers,” Wodell said. “What usually happens is the victim will notify us of the device’s GPS capabilities.”
With jewelry, police can follow a paper trail to link stolen wares to a suspect should the individual try to sell it, Wodell said.
Many municipalities, including Freehold Borough, have an ordinance requiring jewelry stores to notify police departments in writing when they purchase gold, he noted. In addition, the person selling the gold must present a government-issued identification to the jewelry store representative before the transaction can be completed, according to Wodell.
Protecting Your Home
The best way to prevent your home from being burglarized is to make yourself a difficult target for potential thieves, said Christopher Gramiccioni, first assistant prosecutor with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office. If a thief believes a home is too risky to burglarize, he or she will pass it up for an easier target, Gramiccioni said.
He offered the following tips for Monmouth County residents looking to better protect their homes:
- Keep your home well-lighted. A motion-sensor light is helpful.
- Lock your doors and windows, particularly when you leave your home.
- If you are away from your home for an extended period of time, ensure that someone picks up your mail and newspapers regularly so would-be burglars cannot conclude that no one is home.
- Sliding doors can be particularly vulnerable. Consult your local hardware store or locksmith for special locks for sliding doors.
- Place personal belongings, toys and such inside the house or garage when they are not used.
- Keep your bushes and trees trimmed so they cannot easily be used as hiding places for burglars.
- Consider installing an alarm system. If you have one, ensure that you utilize your security alarm.
- Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots or other "secret" hiding places. Burglars know where keys are commonly hid.
Local police departments may have programs available for homeowners concerned about protecting their property. In Marlboro, the police department has established Direct Connect, which allows residents to connect their security alarms directly to the police department for an annual $270 fee.
"It's definitely a way of cutting down response time. It can be a great deterrence if we get there faster," said Marlboro Police Department Capt. Steve Mennona.
Both Mennona and Gramiccioni urged residents to be aware of their surroundings and report anything out of the ordinary to authorities.
In the case of the Miriam Drive burglary in Matawan, for example, an observant neighbor alerted police after noticing a window screen on the front lawn and an open window at the home. A suspect was in custody within two weeks.
“Be a good neighbor,” Gramiccioni advised. “If you notice anything suspicious, call 9-1-1.”
Kaitlyn Anness, Amy Byrnes, Chelsea Naso and Katrina Rossos contributed to this report.