MONTVILLE, NJ – Crime prevention tips and Montville Township crime statistics were offered at a police town hall meeting headed up by Montville Township Police Chief Andrew Caggiano on March 19. Caggiano and Morris County Sheriff James Gannon also provided residents with a primer on what’s being done about the county’s opiate crisis.

Caggiano said that there had been 30 burglaries of motor vehicles in the township this year (statistics are through the end of February, 2019), and one commercial burglary. There had been no home burglaries. He defined burglary as someone entering a building and taking items, as opposed to a robbery, which is defined as theft involving bodily injury or fear of bodily injury.

Last year there were 50 motor vehicle, 11 residential and three commercial burglaries, he said. Last year there were 35 motor vehicle thefts and they turned up in Newark or Irvington, Caggiano said. This year there have been three so far. There has been one robbery in the township this year, according to Caggiano.

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Crime Prevention

Crimes occur when someone has the ability, desire and opportunity to commit them, said Officer Scott McGowan, who gave residents tips on prevention. McGowan is also the School Resource Officer for the public school district.

“While it’s hard to take away their ability or desire to commit a crime, it’s pretty easy to take away their opportunity,” he said. “First and foremost, lock your doors – even if you’re just walking your dog. Keep your garage door locked too – it probably has tools in it that can give thieves access to your house, like ladders.”

McGowan advised residents to make their homes look occupied with motion sensor lights and lights on timers. Trimming bushes around doors and windows will eliminate hiding spots for thieves. He advised homeowners to invest in solid core or metal entry doors with 3” screws used to install them into the studs, making them harder to kick in.

“Don’t hide keys around,” he said. “And don’t make a lot of copies of your keys and give them out to people, either. Digital locks are great – but change the combination regularly so the numbers in your combination don’t get worn off the keypad.”

McGowan also said that allowing newspapers, mail and deliveries like Amazon boxes to stack up is a sure-fire way to let thieves know that a house is unoccupied.

“Ask your neighbor to get the mail and park a car in your driveway or move your car around periodically,” he said.

In case the unthinkable does happen and your home does get broken into, it’s a great idea to keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions – anything with a serial number can be traced if someone tries to sell it at a pawn shop, according to McGowan.

“Take a picture of valuable items, write down the date of purchase, the original value, the serial numbers, and keep a copy in a safe place away from your home in case of fire or disasters,” he said. “Make a video or photo record of heirlooms and antiques – your insurance company can help you with this.”

McGowan also asked that if residents noticed anything suspicious in their neighborhoods, to call 911 immediately.

“We’re driving around patrolling, but you guys know what’s out of place before we will,” he said. “Callers can be anonymous.”

As far as vehicle safety tips, McGowan could not stress enough that keys should be kept in the house and vehicles should be locked.

“Every car that was broken into – the key fob was in the car and the car was unlocked,” he said.

McGowan advised that residents not leave valuables in cars, park in dark spots, or leave cars unlocked and running when they run into quick marts for coffee or other items.

What If My Home or Vehicle is Broken Into?

McGowan said if a crime occurs, or your door is open and you know you locked it when you left, do not enter.

“Use your cell phone or a neighbor’s phone to call the police,” he said. “Don’t touch or clean anything up until the police have inspected for evidence and write down the license plate numbers or descriptions of any suspicious vehicles or people.”

Opiate Statistics

Caggiano informed residents that in 2015, Montville ranked fourth out of 20 towns with two heroin overdoses, but the next year, Montville had eight fatal overdoses, which made it the number one in the county for these deaths. In 2017 there were two fewer, and last year there were three.

“What’s important to know is, this is not kids involved here,” Caggiano told the attendees. “We’ve had overdoses as young as 15 and as old as 61. [Opiates affect] a broad spectrum of people. We can arrest people all day, but it’s not going to solve the problem.”

In 2015 the narcan opiate-reversing drug was introduced and officers were trained to use it; the drug has been used 24 times. Now, a peer recovery counselor will meet the person who is narcaned at the hospital, Caggiano said. In the lobby of the police department is a prescription return box to avoid having extra opiates in residents’ homes. Task forces have been implemented that are not just enforcement and arrests but also to offer rehabilitation services, he said.

Sheriff Gannon Speaks

Sheriff Gannon then spoke about his role in the war against opiates, saying that police are “warriors” but also “guardians.”

“We don’t have any sympathy for the ‘for-profit’ opioid dealer and organizations – we take them to jail,” Gannon said. “We investigate – we prosecute – we lock them up. But with regard to the users, since I’ve been sheriff there have been 170 dead. These are people with families. But we’re not talking about pens and pencils here. The mean age in the county is about 35. And it’s a global problem. We’re not going to arrest our way out of this – we have to deal with the people who are addicted. These people – the simple users – are the ones who are committing the crimes in your town. The car burglaries, some of your residential burglaries, and certainly your retail thefts. If I sat in front of the Boonton Walmart, I could see them coming. We need to do something to help them. So I asked a team of people – what can we do differently?”

The answer became known as Hope One, which is a mobile recovery services van. Riding in the van are a peer recovery counselor, a sheriff’s officer and a licensed clinician.  It travels to locations throughout the county twice a week, offering services, narcan and training on narcan, and placement for those who need it into rehab, Gannon said.

Montville Township will also be a location for PAARI, the police-assisted addiction and recovery initiative, which will provide support and resources to help law enforcement agencies nationwide to create non-arrest pathways to treatment and recovery, Gannon said. The program was launched in Morris County on the second anniversary of Hope One (read about it here).

“Uniformed officers are making the difference all the time on the ‘warrior’ side, but on the ‘guardian’ side, relationships are important too,” Gannon said.

He made the point that by dealing with the addiction, the crimes the addicts commit would be reduced, also.

During the question and answer period, a resident asked if the deaths were attributed to the motels in the township, but both Caggiano and Gannon assured the audience that opiate addiction crosses over all socioeconomic levels.

“It has nothing to do with socioeconomics, race, gender, voting district – it doesn’t,” Gannon said. “I’ve seen stellar families. Something goes south, and I’ve seen them on the morgue table. That’s the stigma aspect that we have to embrace. There are a lot of great families who have been dealt a bad hand. Keep that in mind.”

Montville Township Police ask that if you have an outdoor home camera (such as Ring or Nest) that you let them know so you can help solve crimes in your neighborhood. Please email ebyrnes@montvillenj.org with “Camera” as the subject and your address as the body of the email. The police simply want to have a database so that if a crime occurs, they can check to see if anyone has the crime recorded on their camera.

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