FAIRFIELD, NJ – The Fairfield Police Department, helping to investigate recent false boat-in-distress calls (see article here), have announced an arrest in the case.
The Fairfield Police worked in conjunction with the New Jersey State Police and the United States Coast Guard, resulting in Joseph Bell, 32, of Fairfield being arrested on March 21 for two counts of making a false public alarm.
It is alleged that, on two separate occasions that spanned five months, Bell contacted the United States Coast Guard in Staten Island, using a marine radio, both times reporting that there were boaters in need of emergency assistance when he knew it was not true.
Each time, these reports set off an emergency response by members of the Fairfield, Wayne, Little Falls and Lincoln Park Police and Fire Departments, various first aid squads and the New Jersey State Police marine and aviation units.
The first incident allegedly attributed to Bell took place on October 27, 2015 when it is alleged that Bell reported that a boat had either capsized or tipped over in the Passaic River in the area of Lincoln Park and Fairfield and that it was occupied by one adult, three children and a dog who were all in need of assistance.
The second incident allegedly attributed to Bell took place on March 15, 2016 when it is alleged Bell reported to the United States Coast Guard that he was reporting a distress call he was monitoring involving an alleged boater in need of assistance on the Passaic River in Fairfield. He went on to say that there were two children and a father that was trapped or injured.
In both instances, an extensive marine and air search were conducted with negative results.
Chief Anthony G. Manna said he was grateful to the first responders who reported to each of the false reports. “I would like to thank all those police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, state troopers and Coast Guard personnel who either responded to these false reports in order to assure that someone was not actually in need of help or helped to bring this individual to justice,” he said.
“We committed to finding the individual responsible and today we did,” he said. “Hopefully this will serve as a message to others that law enforcement takes seriously, false reports and we will do whatever we can to track down those who take valuable resources away from the general public,” said the Chief.
Bell was released on his own recognizance pending an initial appearance in the Superior Court in Newark, N.J. It is unclear at press time whether local and state agencies will be attempting to seek restitution regarding the cost for deploying their assets to these false reports.
(It should be noted that the charges against Bell are merely allegations and that he is presumed innocent until he either pleads guilty or is found guilty in a court of law)