A Radio Avenue resident was the victim of a robbery on March 23, according to officials in the Secaucus Police Department. A man, accompanied by two others, flashed a badge or some other ID and identified the trio as police officers in order to gain entry to the victim’s apartment, police said.
Thieves have allegedly used this ploy in other robberies in Hudson and Bergen counties, including another incident in Secaucus last year.
“We are in touch with surrounding jurisdictions that had similar incidents,” said Det. Sgt. Thomas O’Keeffe of the Secaucus Police Department. “All of the jurisdictions that have had similar incidents are all working together to get arrests in these cases.”
The similarities between the Radio Avenue and Second Street incidents are unsettling.
“There really is not much more I can say without jeopardizing the investigation,” he added.
The incident took place at 2 Radio Avenue, which is an apartment complex.
The thieves are described as two Latino men and one black man. Aside from the victim, O’Keeffe said no other witnesses have come forward, and neighbors did not see anything suspicious.
Because the matter is under investigation the department released few other details last week.
However, they did release descriptions of the three suspects. One suspect is described as a light-skinned Latino man, about 5’ 1”, with a bulky build. This suspect might have been bald.
The second suspect is described as also being Latino, but with darker skin that the first man. This suspect was about 5’8” with a chunky build and a “shape up” hairstyle.
The last suspect was tall black man who is over 6’ and who has an athletic build.
Similar incident last year
This alleged incident comes almost a year after a similar crime took place on Second Street.
Last April, two women were bound and robbed by two assailants who also allegedly pretended to be police when they showed up at the door. They then looted the home for valuables.
Police are still looking for the two suspects in this case. One suspect is described as a white male in his late 20s or early 30s with a tall, slender build. The victims described the second suspect as a black male in his late 30s, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 inches tall, with a stocky build. Police have a composite sketch on file for the second suspect.
“These types of crimes have happened all throughout New Jersey, where men have used the same ploy on victims who open their front doors because they believe the men are police officers,” said Secaucus Police Chief Dennis Corcoran.
Including the incident involving the women, there were six residential break-ins reported in Secaucus within the first four months of 2009. When asked if there had been any arrests made in those cases, O’Keeffe said last week, “No, there have not.”
Special unit created
In the wake of last year’s break-ins, Corcoran created the Special Police Detail within the Police Department’s Investigation Bureau last February specifically to address residential burglaries and thefts.
“This Police Detail [consists] of personnel from both the Uniform Patrol Bureau and the Detective Bureau,” Corcoran said. “Police personnel were assigned to residential neighborhoods and [supplemented] the regularly assigned Uniform Patrol Bureau personnel in those neighborhoods. All personnel assigned to this Detail were instructed and supervised in proactive policing.”
But the similarities between the Radio Avenue and Second Street incidents are unsettling and are sure to rattle local residents who were already unnerved last year.
“We don’t have that many breaking and enterings in Secaucus,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. “But in incidents like this, it raises the level of concern. We don’t want people to be frightened. But we do want people to be aware.”
In response to fears within the community, the Town Council last year approved the hiring of four new officers. Two officers joined the force last year. Two more are expected to be hired later. The addition of these four officers will bring the department total up to 61 cops.
“The next police academy training is in June and we hope to hire two people from that class,” Gonnelli said.
Last year, Corcoran said that under ideal budget conditions, he’d prefer to have a total of 63 officers, but he believes the department’s size is not a problem. He rejected community criticism that the department should have 68 officers as it did back in the 1980s, when crime in Secaucus was higher than it is currently.
To avoid becoming the victim of a break-in, Corcoran recommended that residents do what he called “common sense things.” He suggested that residents lock their doors when they leave home, make sure mail and newspapers are picked up when go away, and be aware of suspicious people who appear to be lurking.
If someone claims to be an officer, firefighter, or utility worker, the mayor said residents should request a photo ID that includes the name of a department or agency and includes a signature.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.