GLEN ROCK, NJ - What used to be a simple pot to cook food is now seen as a potential bomb.
A pressure cooker in a shopping cart was enough to mobilize Glen Rock police, Fair Lawn police and the county bomb squad.
"How the world has changed since I first became a police officer in 1983!" Glen Rock Police Chief Dean Ackermann said in an email to TAPinto a day after the incident. "In the current environment, an unattended pressure cooker left in a parking lot can’t help but cause alarm."
At approximately 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7, Glen Rock’s regional public safety dispatch center (Northwest Bergen Central Dispatch) received a 9-1-1 cell call from a concerned citizen who observed a suspicious item left in a shopping cart outside the main entrance at Rock Farmers Market, 924 Prospect Street, Ackermann reported in a press release. The Rock Farmers Market is one of about ten retail establishments which occupy the strip mall.
That call, which borough officials praised, sent everything into motion.
"The citizen who saw it and called us did the right thing," Ackermann later said. "I would rather mobilize a response to an issue like this and have it turn out to be nothing. The chance that it may have been a true hazard which went unreported until it was too late is something we can’t afford to risk."
When police arrived on the scene, they located a pressure cooker inside a shopping cart left outside the front door of Rock Farmer's Market. "Out of an abundance of caution," the shopping mall, as well as an adjacent shopping mall were evacuated, and Prospect Street at the Fair Lawn border was shut down to vehicular traffic.
An email notice was sent out stating the area had been shut down, but there was no explanation, which is typical for such emergency events. Email tips came into TAPinto. People were nervous.
The Bergen County Sheriff’s Department Bomb Squad was immediately dispatched to the scene, Ackermann said, as fire and EMS personnel were placed on standby.
The bomb technician determined the pressure cooker posed no threat, police said. Also investigated was a bag which a merchant found hanging off their back door. That was determined to be a plastic bag containing a brick.
The new mayor, Kristine Morieko, had been sworn-in less than a week prior.
"My first thoughts immediately went to our first responders," Morieko told TAPinto. "How selflessly they protect us from harm's way. As the day progressed, I found that my good friend was the Bomb Squad technician that came. These are people, friends, and loved ones who serve our community. I am so grateful that the outcome was free and clear, and we are reminded to be ever vigilant. The ever-increasing threat to public safety is real, and I am confident in our team to keep watch over us."
The evacuation order was lifted at 11:17 a.m. and business resumed at the shopping mall, Ackermann said. Glen Rock detectives are currently reviewing video footage from the stores in an effort to identify the individual who left the pressure cooker behind.
"At this juncture there is no evidence to support any criminal intent or a direct threat to the Rock Farmers Market nor any other store in the complex," Ackermann said.
As of late yesterday afternoon, nothing new had been learned.
In addition to the Bergen County Sheriff’s Department, assistance was also provided on scene by the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Bergen County Regional SWAT Team, Fair Lawn Police and the Glen Rock Office of Emergency Management.
"Our neighboring communities and the Bergen County Sherif’s office are to be commended for their response, as well," Morieko said during post incident analysis.
"As the day progressed I received calls of support from our state representatives," she said. "I thanked them for having our best interests in mind and for being a support system for our Borough."