By Ron Leir
In the 24 years that his family has operated Fulger’s Golden Beer & Liquor, there’s never been any trouble from the outside. “It’s a nice, friendly neighborhood,” said owner Hitesh Patel.
Now, however, Patel is applying for a permit to carry a gun. Christmas week was marred for Patel and several other Harrison merchants when their shops – all within a few blocks of each other on Harrison Ave. – were burglarized – possibly by the same individual.
Harrison Police Capt. Michael Green said the first incident was reported at 4:18 a.m. on Christmas Day, from Fulger’s, at Harrison and Davis Aves., where – as the store’s surveillance tape revealed – a black male with a hoodie emerged from a pickup truck parked outside and smashed the glass front door with a brick.
Once inside, the burglar removed two cash registers with an undisclosed amount of cash and cigarettes and fled, probably in the pickup truck, Green said.
Last week, Fulger owner Patel told The Observer he was asleep in an apartment above the store when he was awakened by a call from one of his longtime customers informing him that, “my main door is shredding – they broke in.”
Patel said he immediately went downstairs to investigate. He found a brick – the one believed to have been used by the burglar – at the store entrance. And, he said, “I saw everything was on the floor and my two registers were missing.”
Surprisingly, Patel said, the shop’s alcohol stock was not disturbed.
Patel said an examination of his store’s surveillance footage shows that the same pickup truck the burglar was reportedly driving is seen circling the block – apparently casing the location – after the owner got his last delivery for the night.
“I work hard – 13 hours a day, seven days a week,” Patel said. “In the 24 years we have been at this location, we have known honest, loyal customers.”
Four years ago, Patel recalled, he secured security gates for the front entrance to his store, but given the level of comfort formed with his neighbors and patrons, he said he’s never given them a second thought.
Since the break-in, however, “I use them,” he said.
Then, on the night of Dec. 30 and continuing into Dec. 31, a series of shops were victimized by an intruder who, Green said, could be the same individual who got into the liquor store earlier in the week.
At 12:15 a.m. on Dec. 31, police got a report of an attempted burglary at Hinze’s Deli, Harrison and Sixth St.
Deli owner Ted Toth told The Observer he was getting ready to lock up, at about 11 p.m., when he and an employee heard the sound of glass breaking in his front door. “It sounded like a BB gun shot,” he said. “We turned the lights on real quick, hoping we’d scare off whoever was there.”
It cost him $300 to replace the broken glass, Toth said.
The only consolation was that the culprit was denied entry.
Not so fortunate, however, was Pepita’s Beauty Salon, Harrison and Fifth St. At 1 a.m., police got a report that someone had shattered the glass in the salon’s front door window, got inside, removed $25 from the register and fled.
And, at 1:35 a.m., a police officer discovered a partly broken glass door at Harrison Grocery, Harrison and Third St. Here, though, no entry resulted, according to Green.
“We’re assuming,” he said, “that all these incidents are all connected, possibly the same individual,” looking to exploit the fact that with the holiday season, there figured to be more inventory and cash available.
Merchants said two other stores – a pizzeria and a Mexican eatery – were the targets of attempted burglaries but this couldn’t be readily confirmed with police.
In the meantime, police released an image of the suspected burglar captured on surveillance tape and asked anyone with information on any the incidents to call police at 973-483-4100.