To the Residents of the Town of Westfield:
As Mayor Brindle indicated in her most recent Town Council remarks, Westfield — like many nearby towns — is continuing to experience car thefts. I’d like to take this opportunity to provide some additional details to help inform residents about the problem at hand, the ongoing steps the Westfield Police Department is taking to address it, and how residents have a key role to play in their safety and security.
Thus far in 2019, there have been nineteen (19) vehicle thefts and sixty-three (63) vehicle burglaries reported to the Westfield Police Department. In the fourth quarter of 2019 alone, there have been eight (8) reported vehicle thefts.
In nearly every single instance, the stolen vehicle was left unlocked with its key/key fob left inside the vehicle at the time of the theft — or a key/key fob previously stolen from the unlocked vehicle was used.
All but two (2) of the reported stolen vehicles have since been recovered. Some of these stolen vehicles have crashed while fleeing town, in some instances while being pursued at high speeds by police. There have been seven (7) documented police pursuits thus far this year — all of which have presented great danger to officers. The rest of these stolen vehicles have been found abandoned in Newark and other Essex County towns, many after being used in the commission of other crimes — including armed carjackings and robberies.
Information obtained during the investigation of these vehicle thefts and burglaries indicates that suspects are entering Westfield in stolen vehicles, looking to commit additional vehicle burglaries and/or thefts to unlocked vehicles. Initially, this was occurring only during the overnight hours.
However, vehicle burglaries and thefts are now occurring at other times of day. In some instances, keys or key fobs are being stolen from unlocked vehicles during daytime burglaries, and suspects then return during the overnight hours to steal those vehicles.
The Westfield Police Department has been vigorously patrolling the affected areas — mainly residential neighborhoods located on the north side of town, adjacent to Mountainside and Scotch Plains, and in close proximity to Route 22. These efforts include both obvious and less overt patrolling. Numerous other vehicle burglaries and/or thefts have been thwarted by these intense efforts.
The Westfield Police Department processes every single recovered stolen vehicle for latent fingerprints and DNA evidence. Many reported vehicle thefts have resulted in arrests due to the subsequent fine investigative work of Detectives.
Unfortunately, despite these efforts, this criminal activity persists and Westfield remains a target because of the abundance of unlocked vehicles with keys inside. I am confident that, without significant changes in securing vehicles, this activity will continue.
The good news is that there are simple, common sense measures residents can take to play a significant role in addressing this issue.
Simply put: Lock your vehicles — not just overnight, but always. This is a crime of opportunity and, as I have said many times, completely eliminating car thefts is unlikely -- but we can displace them. Without the ease of access these thieves are currently experiencing in Westfield, they will soon go elsewhere.
Please remember we have other resources in place to keep residents informed about this issue:
Every night, for over a year, the Westfield Police Department has posted a message on its Facebook page as part of its #9PMRoutine initiative, encouraging followers to lock their vehicles at 9 p.m. Presently, the Westfield Police Department’s Facebook page has 3,593 followers.
Additionally, the Westfield Police Department has created ward specific Nixle groups to advise residents via text and email messages when vehicle burglaries and thefts are occurring in their neighborhoods. We currently have just over 2,400 subscribers in total to these alerts, and hope to continue to expand our reach in order to make residents aware of these events.
Suppressing car burglaries and thefts must be a collaborative effort by police and residents working together. The Westfield Police Department continues to make every effort and use all tools at its disposal to address this issue, but residents also have a significant role to play in securing their community.
Our top priority will always be the safety of Westfield residents. Lock up, Westfield, and let’s put an end to these vehicle burglaries and thefts! Together, I am certain we can.
Chief Christopher Battiloro
Westfield Police Department