SOMERVILLE, NJ - Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano said in a release that a Somerset County Burglary Task Force investigation has identified reports of  distraction-type burglary and thefts committed throughout the State of New Jersey and has issued some prevention tips. The typical victim is an elderly person who is distracted while one or more associates enter the home and steal jewelry and United States currency. Stolen jewelry is frequently sold immediately to gold-buying entities in exchange for cash.
Prosecutor Soriano said the Task Force, led by Lt. Joseph Walsh, initiated a three month investigation following a residential burglary and theft committed in Somerville, on December 17, 2014. Prosecutor Soriano explained that a lone actor approached a single-family home on North Adamsville Road. The actor advised the 90 year homeowner that he was “with the water company” and needed entry to the home to “check the pipes”. The elderly victim admitted the actor into the home and, together, they proceeded to the basement. At the time, the actor was communicating with another person over a two-way radio and repeating “it is clear”. The actor ultimately advised the victim that the water problem appeared to be fixed and he exited the home. The victim subsequently realized that a safe containing jewelry and United States currency exceeding $75,000.00 had been stolen.
Prosecutor Soriano states that a common distraction scheme is known as the “water company” scam where victims are lured into their basement while another actor(s) enters the home and steals property. Another common scheme, known as the “tree work” scam, involves luring the victim out of their home and into the backyard for the alleged purpose of identifying the property line while another actor(s) enters the home and steals property.
To reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a distraction burglary and theft, use the following prevention tips and information,
* Keep all doors and windows securely locked – even when you are home
* Preprogram your telephone with the number of your local police or Somerset County Communications at 908-526-2500
* When responding to an unexpected knock at your door, use the door chain and spy hole. Ask the person who they are and what company they are from. Ask to see their identification and business card
* Never let anyone into your home whom you did not request or invite their presence
* Never let anyone into your home without verifying their identification by calling the company
Most utility and public service companies send letters to customers announcing in advance their intention to work in your area. Unannounced presence is not normal.
Employees should be wearing a uniform and operating a vehicle that is clearly marked with the service company’s logo
* If someone approaches your home and requests to be admitted, call your local police or Somerset County Communications at 908-526-2500 for assistance. Police will be glad to assist
* If a sales or repair person comes to your home at your request, invite a family member or neighbor to be present
Verify their identification. Legitimate sales and repair employees are trained to welcome your efforts to assure their identity
* If you suspect a sales, repair or utility company employee is not whom they claim to be, call your local police or Somerset County Communications at 908-526-2500
* Do not keep large amounts of cash in the home
* Keep a list along with photographs of expensive jewelry, furs and electronics to assist police in case of a theft