MAPLEWOOD, NJ – The three recent violent crimes in Maplewood are “uncharacteristic” of the town, according to the police chief.
In a televised press conference this morning, Police Chief Robert Cimino and Mayor Victor DeLuca discussed the recent crimes and the steps the township is taking to address the public’s safety concerns.
The crimes last week included a home-invasion style robbery at a home on Academy Street, an assault and robbery of an employee at St. Joseph’s Church on Wednesday, and the double homicide at a Northview Terrace home over the weekend.
At this morning’s press conference, Cimino told reporters and a handful of residents that the crimes are uncharacteristic of Maplewood, and that police are working to not only solve these crimes but prevent others.
Cimino said police strive to maintain a “flow of intelligence” between law enforcement, residents and businesses in town. He emphasized that although an arrest has already been made in the double murder, he has assigned additional police presence in the areas where the other two crimes occurred.
When the assault at St. Joseph’s was first reported, police only said the suspect was a young male. At today’s press conference, Cimino provided a more detailed description: a black male, in his late 30s, between five-foot ten and six feet tall, with a heavy build, dressed in a black jacket and black pants.
One resident asked how police are planning to safeguard those who work at the church, and Cimino said his department is working with church officials to increase security.
Another resident said she lives near where the Academy Street home invasion took place, and told Cimino that the crime scene is a hub of drug activity. She said cars are parked on the street well past 2 a.m. and she has witnessed drug deals going on and even written down license plate numbers. However, she said, when her husband called the police, he was told he had to file a formal complaint – something they didn’t want to do for fear of retribution by the drug dealers.
"What your husband was told was incorrect," Cimino responded. He said reports can be made anonymously and although there are certain things the police have to do when an anonymous report is made, the reporting resident does not have to give his or her name.
Cimino and DeLuca continually emphasized “If you see something, say something.” DeLuca cited two recent examples of incidents where residents were suspicious of others’ activities but didn’t notify the police. Cimino addressed some questions from residents about aggressive panhandlers and other people who appear to be homeless. He said that if the panhandlers are aggressive, threatening or otherwise make the victim feel uncomfortable, police can intervene. However, the chief said, if the officer hasn’t observed the situation, there must be a “complaining witness” for the officer to make an arrest or even issue a summons.
The chief asked that residents report all suspicious activity. He also offered some general safety tips for residents, including not allowing strangers into their homes, locking doors and windows, and using a home security system.
Cimino also said his department is working to hire four additional police officers to bring the force up to its authorized level of 60.