MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ -  The 'social distancing' is not stopping car thieves from going into unlocked cars. Thefts occurred from several unlocked vehicles last night on Victoria Lane and Springbrook Road, said the Morris Township Police Department.

Residents are reminded to lock cars, remove valuables and take the Key Fob with you.

An Auto Theft Task Force has been created to stop a persistent trend in car thefts and car burglaries in Morris County, as experienced by other counties in northern New Jersey. 

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In a recent three-day period alone in Morris County, six vehicles were stolen – in Madison, Mountain Lakes, Montville, Mount Olive and Roxbury – including two that were taken in afternoon daylight. In 2019 in Morris County, 215 vehicles were stolen and another 233 vehicles were burglarized.   In 2018, 227 vehicles were stolen in Morris County and another 231 vehicles were burglarized, with valuables removed, but the vehicles were not removed from the premises. 

In the majority of these cases, stolen vehicles have been left unlocked by the owner with a key fob left in the car allowing a thief to immediately drive it away.  Alarmingly, in some incidents in Morris County, suspects have entered victims’ homes by using garage door openers found in unlocked vehicles. Once inside the homes, thieves have been able to locate key fobs and steal cars. 

In locked vehicles that do not have a key fob inside are also being searched for valuables. In some cases, car burglars have resorted to smashing windows of vehicles parked at gyms, parks, and day care centers and grabbing purses, wallets and other valuables left inside. Bank and credit cards stolen from inside these vehicles are being used in multiple locations, compromising victims’ finances. Of critical concern to law enforcement is that some vehicles stolen in Morris County have been used to commit violent crimes in other areas, such as shootings, armed robberies and homicide. One incident involved a vehicle stolen from Parsippany that was used in a shooting involving three firearms in Essex County. 

High-end makes and models – Mercedes Benz, Lexus, Range Rover, Porsche, Audi and Ford pick-up trucks – are most commonly targeted. But when they are locked, and no key fob is available, other models are targeted. Communities targeted by thieves are generally close to highways, including Routes 80, 287, 46 and 24.  Most of the vehicles have been recovered – 75 percent – but typically are damaged. The stolen vehicles have predominantly been disposed of in Essex County.    

Community members are asked to be the first line of defense in preventing car thefts and car burglaries.  Law enforcement asks you to take simple, proactive steps to discourage thieves who roam residential neighborhoods in the dark of night, checking parked vehicles on streets and in driveways to determine whether they are locked.

To further combat this and other issues affecting our community, a multi-agency auto theft/anti-crime task force has been launched to enhance patrols and further investigations of auto theft and other pattern-type crimes.  This initiative, first conceptualized by Chief Andrew Caggiano of the Montville Police Department, has come about through a partnership between the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, the Morris County Police Chiefs’ Association, the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force, in coordination with various law enforcement agencies. 

 “This vital task force will help us identify thieves and stop a stream of offenders from entering Morris County to steal from people when they’re asleep, visiting a gym or store, or when they are out of their home at work. The task force will enable us to conduct immediate investigations, across county lines, in an effort to locate vehicles and hold suspects accountable more quickly,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said. 

Montville Township Police Chief Andrew Caggiano said of his call for an Auto Theft Task Force: “In Montville, we are a geographically and economically convenient location. As such, we are experiencing a scourge of vehicle thefts and burglaries. I realized that there is strength in the combining of our forces, and proposed the Auto Theft Task Force.” 

Residents should continue to be vigilant. Be the first line of defense:

  • Lock your car doors
  • Take the Key Fob with you, never leave it in the vehicle
  • Neighbors should watch out for each other
  • Report suspicious behavior 
  • Call 911 to report crimes in progress 

 

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