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Category: News

Finding some tax breaks

By Randy Neumann

U.S. Representative Rob Portman (R-OH) recently said, “The income tax code and its associated regulations contain almost 5.6 million words – seven times as many words as the Bible. Taxpayers now spend about 5.4 billion hours a year trying to comply with 9,000- plus pages of tax laws.”

Yes, the Internal Revenue Code is voluminous, but it is not all bad. In fact, some of it is good for the taxpayer; you just have to know where to look. As an example, you can write a check that is income tax deductible to reduce the public debt that was, at the time of this writing, in excess of $14 trillion. All you have to do is make your check payable to “Bureau of the Public Debt” and send it to: Bureau of the Public Debt, Department G, PO Box 2188, Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188.

Of course, contributions to reduce the public debt are subject to the rules and limitations for charitable contributions, and they can be mailed with your tax return or independently. What follows is a list of some deductions that you might find helpful.

One is hosting an exchange student. Do you have a student living with you under a formal agreement with a qualified organization that exists to provide educational opportunities for that student? Is that student a full-time student at a U.S. high school or secondary school? Is he or she not your dependent or relative? If you host an exchange student, all of this may apply. If it does apply, you are eligible for a tax credit of $50 for each month the student lives with you (15 or more days of a month count as a full month).

A tax credit is not a deduction. It is better than a deduction. It is a dollar for dollar refund of taxes due.

It pays to volunteer. Volunteer work in itself will not provide you with a tax break; however, you may be able to deduct 14 cents per mile on your 2011 federal return for charity-related mileage or the cost of the gas you used while driving on behalf of the charity, whichever is greater. You can also deduct the cost of tolls and parking related to your driving.

Away from the driver’s seat, you can also characterize the out-of-pocket expenses you pay on behalf of a charity or qualified non-profit organization as charitable deductions (if the organization hasn’t reimbursed you for them). Buying equipment for the charity, buying office supplies or stamps, buying and cleaning uniforms – these are just some of the expenses that are deductible.

Next topic is travel expenses related to medical care. IRS Publication 502 states that you may deduct 16.5 cents per mile on trips you take to obtain medical care for yourself or your dependents. The trip has to be “primarily for, and essential to, medical care.”Bus, taxi, plane and train fares, and ambulance service fees all count as expenses toward the deduction as long as the travel was for medical care.

Parents transporting children who need medical care and nurses traveling with a patient can also claim the deduction. Also, some who qualify for this deduction may also get a tax break of up to $50 per night for lodging related to trips taken for health care.

Did you buy a house, an RV or a boat in 2010? You may be able to exploit state or local income tax deductions. Only seven states don’t have state income tax (Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming). Tennessee and New Hampshire merely tax forms of dividends and interest.

In certain cases, you can deduct the cost of a safe deposit box rental. The IRS says you can if you rent the safe deposit box to store taxable incomeproducing stocks, bonds or investment-related papers and documents. Sorry, if you store tax-exempt securities, jewelry or other personal items in the box, you can’t exploit the deduction.

The Saver’s Credit is the up-to-$1,000 tax credit that you may be able to claim if you contributed to an IRA or qualified employersponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) last year. Your AGI (adjusted gross income) has to fall below a certain level to claim it. For 2010, those levels were $55,500 (married filing jointly), $41,625 (head of household) and $27,750 (single, married filing separately or qualifying widower). The credit can be as large as $2,000 for joint filers!

Did you pay a tax professional in 2010 to prepare your 2009 tax return? The IRS commonly lets you deduct the fees you paid to such professionals. The cost of tax preparation software and tax publications counts toward the deduction, and so do efiling fees.

Many more deductions are available. For a long list of potential tax breaks, see IRS Publication 529 at www.irs.gov/ publications/p529/ar02.html. See your tax professional to determine whether you qualify for some of these obscure deductions and credits.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for the individual. Randy Neumann CFP® is a registered representative with securities and insurance offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. He can be reached at 12 Route 17N, Suite 115, Paramus, 201-291-9000.

Harrison scores windfall in tax rulling

 

Photo by Jim Henderson/ Looking east at Red Bull Arena on a sunny afternoon.

 

By Ron Leir

HARRISON – The New York Red Bulls major league soccer team has been dealt a deadly shutout by a civilian referee.

A year from the day the team went to court to challenge the host town’s demand that it pay real estate taxes on its stadium, Judge Christine Nugent, sitting in State Tax Court in Newark, ruled not only can the Red Bull Arena be taxed but also the land the Arena occupies.

Now the Red Bulls go from being a “free rider” to, potentially, the biggest taxpayer in Harrison.

The judge had previously concluded – in a separate ruling made last year – that the land was tax-exempt but on Friday, Jan. 6, in issuing her final decision, she reversed herself.

Ironically, in its legal arguments filed with the court, Harrison appeared to concede that the 12-acre parcel where the stadium sits should be tax-exempt because title to the land is held by the Harrison Redevelopment Agency, itself a tax-exempt public entity.

“It’s a grand slam for Harrison,” said Town Tax Assessor Al Cifelli.

Harrison says it’s entitled to $1,290,225 in taxes on the stadium for 2010, based on a partial assessment (it opened in March 2010) of about $22.1 million and an additional $1,867,477 (based on an assessment of $30 million) for 2011.

For the land, the town says it’s owed $215,863 in taxes for 2010 (based on an assessment of about $3.7 million) and an additional $227,413 for 2011.

Additionally, the town is awaiting payment of a $150,000-a –year rental fee for 2010 and 2011.

Thomas Denitzio, of the Woodbridge law firm Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith, & Davis who handled the case for the Red Bulls, couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. If the Red Bulls decide to challenge the court ruling, it will have to request a hearing from the state Appellate Court.

Kearny attorney Norman J. Doyle Jr., a tax specialist, was retained as special counsel by Harrison to present its case.

Cifelli, who attended Friday’s court session, said that it took Judge Nugent nearly two hours to read her decision into the record. A copy of the transcript wasn’t readily available.

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski

 

In its complaint – filed against the Town of Harrison, the Harrison Redevelopment Agency and the Hudson County Improvement Authority – the Red Bulls asserted that the stadium is, in legal parlance, a “Property” and “Project” of the government entities that borrowed nearly $40 million to acquire the land, sub-leased the land to the team, and promoted the Red Bulls’ presence as a boost to the local economy, public recreation and tourism.

As a “public purpose” endorsed by those public entities, the stadium should be deemed tax-exempt, as provided by the state Redevelopment Law and state Improvement Authority Law, the Red Bulls reasoned.

Harrison, in its brief, countered that the stadium, notwithstanding certain “contractual and police” controls the Harrison Redevelopment Agency exercise over the Arena and despite any “intangible and unquantifiable benefits” the town may derive from it, the stadium – as a private, profit-making enterprise – “does not serve a public purpose” and, therefore, under a strict interpretation of state law, it shouldn’t qualify for tax-exempt status.

The court sided with Harrison.

Interpreting the court’s ruling, Doyle said that Judge Nugent agreed with the town that the stadium is taxable because it is a profit-making venture and that the land is also taxable even though it is owned by a public entity (the Redevelopment Agency) which exercised eminent domain to acquire the 12 acres and paid to clean it up, “once the stadium was built, the agency had no further role to play,” and, therefore, no longer had a “public purpose.”

The legal test of taxable vs. tax-exempt in cases of this type, Doyle said, is “where does the money go – admission tickets, concession revenues – to a public agency or to the person (or corporation) running the stadium. That’s the key.”

Doyle characterized the previous concessions by Harrison, the Harrison Redevelopment Agency and the HCIA that the land should be considered tax-exempt “collectively our error” and credited the judge with finding a legal basis for remedying that misinterpretation.

Harrison Mayor Ray McDonough said he was “pleased with the decision. We were always confident the ruling would go in Harrison’s favor. Now we’re just hoping the Red Bulls step up to the plate and meet their financial obligations to the town.”

Kearny DPW starts snow preparations

 

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ The old West Hudson Hospital, now a nursing home, was scene of early morning blaze last week.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski 

KEARNY— As the Northeast got hit with an arctic chill that produced wind chills in the low teens, many began to brace for snow that hasn’t hit the area since a freak Halloween weekend snowstorm.

While many in town fear that dreaded four-letter word, members of the Kearny Department of Public Works began to get ready for the inevitable snowfall that lurks in the near future.

With seven salt trucks and nine additional snowplow vehicles, the Kearny DPW needs less than an hour to get ready for a storm.

“Depending on the severity of the storm, the town takes about three to four hours to be cleared of about four inches of accumulation,” said DPW Superintendent Gerry Kerr. “It takes a lot longer, however, when there are six inches or more snow on the ground.”

According to the town of Kearny’s website, the DPW starts plowing municipal streets when snow accumulations reach two inches or more, and salt is applied on an as-needed basis.

“The hills on the west side of town and the main roads,” said Kerr concerning which roads are covered first. Kerr explained that the hills on the west side of town get icy quicker because of moisture coming from the river.

While the town is split into sections and covered by the DPW, several roads are taken care of by outside sources. These roads include Passaic Ave., Schuyler Ave., Fish House Rd., Central Ave. and Belleville Turnpike. These roads are covered by the Hudson County Road Department or, in the case of Belleville Turnpike, plowed by the New Jersey Department of Transportation.

The town houses its rock salt in a shed that holds some 1500 tons of the ice-melting crystals. While that may seem like quite a bit of salt, for each snow event, the town generally goes through about 300 tons, according to Kerr.

“Depending on the event, we have to refill the trucks about every hour,” Kerr explained, saying that wet snow causes trucks to be filled about once an hour while if its colder and the snow is dry, it takes more salt and it is often less than an hour per refill.

The salt itself is shipped to ports in Newark and is then called in by the town.

So when the next big snowstorm hits the area, don’t get mad at the drivers who accidentally plow snow into your driveway. Instead, think about the sizeable area that they cover and the amount of effort it takes to plow the nearly 48 miles of town roads that you use on a daily basis.

 

Retired DEA agent charged in sexual abuse of minor

 

Photo courtesy Essex County Prosecutor’s Office/ Thomas Sheehan

By Jeff Bahr

NUTLEY— A retired DEA agent from Nutley has suddenly found himself on the wrong side of the bars for his alleged role in the sexual abuse of a teenage girl.

Acting Essex County Prosecutor Carolyn A. Murphy and Nutley Police Chief John U. Holland announced on December 6 that retired Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent Thomas Sheehan, 71, of Nutley, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing a teenage girl.

The arrest warrant was executed during the morning hours at Sheehan’s home in Nutley. The former agent was charged with sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, and aggravated assault.

According to DEA N.J. Division spokesman, Douglas S. Collier, Sheehan retired from the agency in 1997. Collier wasn’t able to provide information pertinent to Sheehan’s current pension status, or whether or not it would be affected by his arrest and/or conviction.

The 17-year-old girl, described as “developmentally delayed” by authorities, was allegedly abused by Sheehan starting from the time that she was 12 and continuing until a date just prior to Christmas.

There is “documentation regarding her inabilities” said Nutley Detective Anthony Montanari when asked about the girl’s mental faculties. He added that “a series of attacks” had occurred during the five-year timeframe, and that the girl reported the abuse to an intermediary who then brought it to the attention of police.

If convicted on the most serious 2nd degree sexual assault charge, Sheehan would face from 5 to 10 years in prison – a sentence subject to the No Early Release Act, which mandates that he serve 85 percent of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Sheehan posted $100,000 bail and was released.

Nutley residents gear up for 2012 Wellness Challenge

Township Program and Event Coordinator Loren McCreesh holds only some the applications of the nearly 487 registered participants.

 

By Ron Leir

NUTLEY – A lot of people probably wondered why the heck Maria Hamlin opted in for Mayor Joanne Cocchiola’s 2011 Wellness Challenge program.

After all, Hamlin was a seasoned local cop and a longtime member of the Air Force National Guard. Sounds like a pretty healthy individual, right? Well, not quite.

“I was in OK shape,” Hamlin said. “After having children (four ranging in age from 4 to 18), it’s very easy to let the weight go on. … As a cop, being on the road and going from one job to another, it’s easy to fall into the trap of fast food.”

But after a dramatic change of diet – switching to prepared meals with a defined calorie intake and turning into a seven-day-a-week gym rat – last May, Hamlin was crowned overall Challenge winner among some 180 participants after dropping 32.2 pounds and losing 18.2% of her total body weight.

And she’ll be back in the pack this year, hoping to be an inspiration to others.

The Wellness Challenge, now in its fourth year, kicked off Monday, Jan. 9, with 487 folks registered as of last week by township program and event coordinator Loren McCreesh.

“We’re running totally in line with last year’s enrollment,” McCreesh said. “We started with about 500 and we ended (16 weeks later) with 153 who successfully completed and lost 1,973 pounds.”

This year’s event has been extended to 18 weeks so as not to conflict with the upcoming May municipal election, she said.

“The primary objective,” McCreesh said, “is to get the community to think healthy, to keep moving. The second goal is weight loss.”

It’s open to people age 18 and older who are Nutley residents, township and/or Board of Education employees and those who work in Nutley. There’s a one-time only $15 registration fee to cover administrative costs. All participants get free Tshirts.

Thirty-five sponsors – including WeightWatchers – provide registrants with free and discounted health-related classes, lectures and workshops. Based on feedback from last year’s participants, the Challenge has already scheduled a Jan. 23 seminar on sugar addiction led by Dr. Leat Kuzniar of Nutley and a March 26 talk on menopause/ hormone imbalance/weight gain hosted by Barnabas Health Clara Maass.

People can enter the Challenge as individuals or as a team of five to seven members.

As in prior years, participants will weigh in every other week during scheduled daytime and/or evening times at either the township Public Affairs/Health Dept., 149 Chestnut St., or at school locations.

At Monday’s kick-off, held at the John H. Walker Middle School gym, staff from Mountainside Hospital of Montclair gave free health assessments to registrants who also met with nutritionists to strategize individual goals and lifestyle changes. Also, an exercise physiologist provided a fi tness analysis based on a body fat reading and step test. The fi rst 50 to attend got free glucose and cholesterol screenings.

A new Challenge sponsor, Barnabas Health Clara Maass Medical Center of Belleville, offered free blood pressure screenings, respiratory evaluations and stress tests to registrants.

Last year’s Challenge winner Maria Hamlin at the Finale Celebration last year

 

Another new feature this year will be top prizes for male and female participants who lose the highest percentage of body weight and a prize for the best team. An award ceremony will be held May 14.

“For some people, this program can be life-changing,” said Mayor Cocchiola, who claims to have lost 22 pounds as a participant in 2009. “But it’s not just about losing weight,” Cocchiola added. “That’s why we call it a ‘wellness’ program. For example, in our first year, we had 40 people who had never run a 5K race before, joined a training program and did it.”

The Challenge seems to have caught on, the mayor said. “Each year,” she noted, “we get more of a core group of people who stay with it.”

And this year the township is looking to enroll the community’s younger members in a similar challenge with a new program, “Nutley Fit Kids,” fi nanced with a $15,000 Shaping NJ grant to combat childhood obesity.

Local kids, from kindergarten to grade 12, in Nutley public and private schools, will be encouraged to keep active by bicycling, running and group exercise and kids from grade 5 to 12 and their parents have been invited to come up with a “Healthy School Lunch Recipe” and the winning entries will be added to the school lunch menu. Judging will take place Feb. 11 at the high school.

Meanwhile, Nutley adults have accepted their Wellness Challenge and they better be watching out for the defending champion, Hamlin, who says she’s closely monitoring her “high protein, low carb” meal plan to get more lean and toned.

“People should realize that 70% of how you look is what you eat,” Hamlin said. “Look at the program as a lifechanging plan and you’ll have better results. If you don’t put the proper nutrients into your body, it’s not going to produce positive results.”

“A word to the wise,” Hamlin said. “People need to stay dedicated because I’m in it to win it. I wish my competitors good luck but they need to know I’m highly motivated.”

Bicentennial celebration begins to take shape

 

By Ron Leir

BLOOMFIELD – Back in 1962, the graduating class of Bloomfield High School buried a time capsule with instructions that the capsule should be opened 50 years later on Memorial Day.

That day is now only a few months away, and just a week after the township’s 200th birthday.

That capsule, which was reportedly uncovered during the high school’s reconstruction in 2005-2006, has since been relocated to the Municipal Building for safekeeping.

So what’s in the time capsule?

That’s just one of the surprises in store for the Bloomfield Bicentennial celebrants, scheduled to kick off the festivities – which will stretch over several months – on March 23 at Bloomfield High School.

Former Councilwoman Janice Litteiro, who is chairing the Bicentennial Committee of some 30 volunteers, and Michael Sceurman, township director of recreation and township liaison to the committee, have come up with the skeleton of a battle plan for the mammoth undertaking.

Details will be fleshed out by seven sub-committees whose members figure to be meeting regularly to ensure that the township party runs smoothly. They’ll be responsible for such tasks as coordinating major events, publicity, research, finance and fundraising, school programs and volunteer management.

“We’re looking to a year of educating people about Bloomfield, honoring our past, celebrating our beautiful township and its people, and, hopefully, building our future,” Litteiro said.

For the March 23 kickoff – which was moved from Bloomfield College to the high school to accommodate a bigger crowd – Litteiro anticipates a scenario that has high school band members playing music, an Eagle scout leading the flag salute, vocalist Molly Frieri singing the National Anthem and a fife and drum rendition introducing an appearance of actor John Cataldo, costumed as Gen. Joseph Bloomfield, a former Revolutionary War major, ex-N.J. governor, Congressman and abolitionist, for whom the township is named.

The township incorporation charter would be read aloud and various dignitaries would be called from the audience to do a ceremonial signing.

At some point, Litteiro said, she’ll give a welcoming speech and a power point presentation that will outline the various birthday events that will unfold during the year along with a timeline for those programs.

Some of the spring events planned include the planting of a bicentennial tree (whose seedling was reportedly grown by NASA astronauts in space) in conjunction with National Arbor Day on April 27; a bicentennial concert by the Bloomfield Music Federation on April 29 at the Middle School; the annual Memorial Day Parade with a bicentennial flavor and members of the Bloomfield High Class of ’62 opening the time capsule.

Others still in the formative planning stages, according to Sceurman, are a summer concert series; the annual Sunset Classic 5-mile run through the township sponsored by the Bloomfield Education Foundation on June 28, for which local homes and businesses could be decorated with bicentennial bunting; a Bloomfield Pride Day, held as an extension of National Night Out, on Aug. 7, when neighbors could organize block parties, picnics and barbecues.

Also in the talking stages are a talent show and a monthly lecture series sponsored by the Bloomfield Historical Society. So says Bloomfield Buzz, a township publication.

Litteiro said she’s working with Glenn Davidson, a TV production director at Montclair University, on a “roving camera” project aimed at assembling a collection of Bloomfield residents and merchants extending birthday greetings to the township.

“It would be like a PSA (public service announcement) that we could maybe air on Channel 35, our public access channel, if we can work out the legalities,” Litteiro said.

The bicentennial celebration figures to culminate with the township’s annual holiday tree lighting on the first Monday in December.

A township bicentennial website, which will be periodically updated, is set to launch Jan. 14, Sceurman said.

Based on preliminary estimates, Sceurman figures the committee will need to raise between $7,000 and $10,000 from private sources to pull off the birthday extravaganza. No taxpayer funds are being applied to the venture, he said.

To help subsidize the project, Sceurman said the committee will be looking to develop at least three potential money-making enterprises: producing a bicentennial anniversary medallion that could be sold to the public; marketing a bicentennial flag or banner that residents and businesses could display; and publishing a bicentennial cookbook by soliciting recipes from the public and offering that as a saleable keepsake.

Asked if the committee was considering publishing a bicentennial history of Bloomfield, Sceurman said such an undertaking appeared to be beyond the capacity of local sources.

“About 10 years ago, my uncle Mark Sceurman, with help from Jean Kuras, president of the Bloomfield Historical Society, and Frederick Branch, wrote a township history and that was followed a couple of years later with ‘Bloomfield Revisited,’ an updated history,” Sceurman recalled.

It was hoped that these versions could be melded with a recently done history of Bloomfield schools but that proposal proved too daunting, he said.

A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: War aside, support the troops

publisher@theobserver.com

 

By Lisa Pezzolla

Last night, I sat in bed exhausted, just waiting to get a much-needed rest. Unfortunately, I spent an hour and a half staring at the TV.

What had caught my attention was Lionel the news decoder, on Channel 11 at 11 p.m. He brought up the point that you don’t have to support the war, but you can support our service men and women. He brings up an interesting point. We have parades for overpaid athletes who train daily in their sport of choice and we end up putting them on society’s high pedestals. I’m a Yankee fan but come on America, shouldn’t our war heroes have a day of recognition and hold their heads high as we salute them for what they have done for us?

The Obama administration has reportedly nixed tickertape parades for Iraq war troops. How many years have they been away from loved ones and from a normal, daily life? Now, they are forced to return to daily life in silence, without being honored for their sacrifice. Whether you support the war or not, support the real heroes and their sacrifices.

No matter which side of the issue you stand on, please send any comments you may have through e-mail, post on our Facebook, or tweet us so we can publish them.

Flynt looked to out-‘hustle’ Dems, GOP

Thirty odd years ago Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt ran an editorial calling on all Americans to abolish the two-party political system. Flynt maintained that neither party represented the people anymore, so they should be removed and replaced by individuals or entities that might actually take up the people’s work. The column didn’t accomplish a great deal, other than to rattle a firmly entrenched establishment quick to point out that Flynt was nothing more than a purveyor of “filth” who shouldn’t be taken seriously. In retrospect, Flynt seems like a veritable genius whose uncanny take on the American problem was far ahead of its time.

We are witnessing a genuine uprising in our once staid political system. Protesters on the right, sick of runaway taxation and stifling government control have banded together to form the Tea Party, while lefties (AKA 99%ers) rally against a breathtakingly corrupt corporate machine and its symbiotic relationship with dirty politicians. There’s one common thread that transcends the innate differences between the two ideologies and their respective agendas. In a nutshell, neither faction believes that the party that they had originally backed – Republican or Democrat – will give them a fair shake anymore. Many believe that they never did. “

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” Marcellus declares in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and so, too, in America. Ask most anyone their opinion of politicians and the present state of our democracy and you will usually hear a variation of “they’re all crooks!” followed by “America is doomed.” It’s easy to see why. The lopsided distribution of money among a handful of the wealthiest Americans isn’t some populist hunch born of jealousy, nor can the assumption that the middle-class is being severely overtaxed be written off as unmerited paranoia. These are inconvenient facts for the powers that be that only emerged after a pioneering group of Americans, choking to death from the foul stench of corruption, finally traced the rot to its roots.

Only time will tell the full affect that these “Anti-Party” parties will have on America, but people are already making educated guesses and formulating opinions about their final impact.

The rosiest view sees a bold, Utopia-like nation rising like a Phoenix after the corruption, collusion, and cronyism have finally been vanquished. That’s a worthy dream but one that stands at direct odds with history – a cursory glance at which shows that no Utopia or attempt at it has ever survived for long.

Those who view these new anti-party groups through more cynical eyes believe that any form of government will eventually devolve as surely as our present system has. The tainted hand of man will still be at the helm steering the ship, these fatalists are quick to point out, and as John Calvin ominously stressed, mankind simply cannot be trusted. Be that as it may, it still begs this question: If we don’t try either of these approaches or other tactics yet to be named or defined, what is our alternative? It’s almost a given that America can’t go on like this indefinitely. At some point our nation will either collapse under its grossly uneven weight, or end up with a rich/poor caste system that will nullify all that it is supposed to stand for.

Yes, Larry Flynt was and still is a man who peddles smut – there’s simply no getting around it. Of course, one person’s smut is another’s S‘mores, but that observation is best left for another time and a more racy publication. Nevertheless, this purported “filth merchant” in all of his alleged sexual depravity somehow managed to propose a forward-thinking idea that was nothing short of prophetic. “Abolish the two-party system!” Flynt demanded in no uncertain terms. Too bad the raunchy fellow didn’t include an exit strategy.

— Jeff Bahr

Belleville PD: Victim hit by a ‘Smooth’ criminal

On December 30, at 3:20 p.m. a man was walking near the QuickChek on Washington Ave. when a Hispanic male approached him. The stranger told the man that they had met before and asked if he remembered him by the name of “Smooth.” As they walked together behind 509 Washington St. the man noticed that three more individuals were approaching him and Smooth. Just when he realized that he had been set up by Smooth, one of the three men grabbed him from behind. The man managed to break free and to throw some punches at Smooth. Suddenly, one of the assailants produced a black snub-nosed revolver and shouted, “Put your hands up!” As he did, the other hooligans began to beat the man. The thieves made off with the man’s wallet, which contained $187. The men are still at large. Police described the men as follows:

“Smooth” – Hispanic with a Mohawk haircut and ponytail. Last seen wearing gray North Face jeans.

Assailant # 1 – Black male in 20’s wearing red T-shirt. Wrist possibly broken.

Assailant # 2 – Black male in 30’s wearing black ski mask and black hooded jacket.

Assailant # 3 – Hispanic male in 20’s wearing gray hooded sweatshirt Other news from the Belleville Police blotter:

Jan. 3

Two attempted motor vehicle thefts were reported at the Verizon Building, 282 Washington Ave. A Verizon employee said that she had parked her white 1999 Chevy Cavalier in the parking lot on Dec. 28. When she returned on Jan. 3 she noticed that the ignition had been popped and broken.

The owner of a white 2008 Chevy van reported that the vehicle’s side-door lock had been popped open and that items inside the vehicle had been rummaged through. It was unclear if anything was missing.

3:20 p.m. – A 14-year-old girl entered into a brouhaha with another girl of the same age after their school bus dropped them off at the corner of Newark Ave. and Clara Maass Dr. The argumentative teen accused the victim of “talking about her” that day in school, but waited until after school to take action against her. As soon as they stepped off the bus the angry teen grabbed the victim’s backpack and struck her in the head. She then ripped the earrings from her ears. When the victim attempted to retrieve the earrings from the ground, the girl kicked her in her side. After officers were dispatched to the scene, they charged the teen with simple assault.

Dec. 31

A trailer was reported stolen at 311 Stevens St. Police received the call on Dec. 31. The robbery apparently occurred somewhere between Dec 30 and 31. The victim informed police that she had rented the trailer from Budget Car Center and that it was gone when she returned to the lot. The trailer is a 1998 Demco model. Police are investigating.

5:45 p.m. – A 2010 Infinity was reported stolen from 10 Columbus Ave. It was stolen between 12:30 a.m. on Dec. 30, and 5:45 p.m. the following day. The owner said that the last time he had seen it was when his friend used it and dropped him off at work. Police are investigating.

9:08 p.m. – Police received a report of two males looking in vehicles at the 100 block of Ralph St. When they arrived at the scene, they spoke with a witness who observed a male wearing a black hoodie sitting on his front steps. A second man dressed in a grey hoodie and described as a Hispanic male wearing glasses, was seen sitting inside a vehicle parked in front of 103 Ralph St. When the witness walked out of his home, the two suspicious males ran off. Officers spoke with the owner of a silver 1997 Civic that the men had been standing beside. He noticed no sign of forced entry, but the ignition had been tampered with.

Dec. 30

7:42 a.m. – A man was knocked from his bicycle in the Kmart parking lot by an assailant that he later identified as a co-worker. After he fell off the bike, the man proceeded to punch him several times in the face. The victim sustained bruises and a cut on his forehead. He refused medical treatment and was advised to contact authorities with complaints.

8 a.m. – Kmart proved to be a crime hotspot once again when when police spotted two men reportedly removing pallets from behind the store. The men claimed that they thought the pallets were being tossed out as garbage. One individual checked out OK and was released; the other, Dominick J. Lyness, 32, of Belleville, wasn’t so lucky. Police discovered that Lyness had warrants out of Saddle Brook, Elmwood Park, East Orange, and an Essex County Sherriff ’s warrant totaling some $3,300.

1 p.m. – An apparent break-in was thwarted when a woman heard a knock at her apartment door at 213 Stephens St. The man then inserted a key into the lock and attempted to open the door. The woman opened the door and asked the man what he was doing there. He nervously explained that he had gone to the wrong apartment, and then bolted down the hallway. The woman then called police. The man, still at large, is described as Asian, 5’ 6” and roughly 30.

Scary welcome to New Year’s

Police are investigating a carjacking incident that took place on the Harrison border of West Hudson Park on New Year’s Day.

Police said they were called to the 600 block of Central Ave. at 9:11 p.m. on Jan. 1 on a report of an armed robbery.

The victim told officers he was talking to a friend on his cell phone while sitting in his 2006 Pontiac GTO in a Central Ave. parking lot, west of Kingsland Ave., with the driver’s door open, and the engine running, when he heard a voice say, “Get out of the car!”

He then felt an object pressed against his head and a man ordered him out of the car. As he did so, the holdup man pulled the victim’s jacket over his head and ordered him to lie on the ground with his hands over his head.

The suspect then directed a second man to check the victim’s pockets and his partner removed $200 and four New Jersey Lottery tickets. The holdup man then turned the victim over onto his back while his partner continued to search him.

The victim could now see that the holdup man was armed with a shiny gray handgun, possibly a semi-automatic, which was pointed at him.

The holdup man then moved the victim to the front of the car and ordered him to lie on the ground. Both the armed man and his partner then jumped into the GTO and sped away south on Kingsland Ave.

As the incident unfolded, the victim’s friend could hear bits of the comments made by the holdup man on his end of the cell phone until the connection was lost. The friend told police he tried to call back, but the call immediately went to voice mail.

Police described the man with the gun as a light-skinned Latino, 5 feet-6, about 25, wearing a dark hoodie, baseball cap, with a mustache, light beard or goatee. His partner was listed as Latino, wearing a dark-colored hoodie.

Police broadcast a statewide alert about the carjacking and an investigation is continuing.

Here’s an accounting of other recent criminal incidents in Harrison:

Jan. 3

A 2008 Chevrolet was “keyed” while it was parked on the 800 block of Hamilton St. overnight.

Tanza Singletary, 21, of New York, was arrested for allegedly shoplifting a $1.29 package of cookies from a Bergen Mall business. He was also charged with hindering apprehension before being released on a summons.

Jose Rodriguez, 38, of Newark, was arrested for shoplifting 12 cans of Red Bull from a Harrison Ave. store. Rodriguez was given a summons and released.

Jan. 2

Rocco Spinelli, 52, of Newark was arrested outside Popeye’s restaurant on Passaic Ave. on a drug offense warrant issued by Wall Township. Spinelli was subsequently released by Wall Township on his own recognizance with a new court date.

A 1999 Honda Civic was stolen from the 300 block of Essex St. sometime between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2.

Jan. 1

Someone smashed the window of a 2000 Ford Explorer while it was parked overnight on the 200 block of Warren St. and ransacked the interior. The owner couldn’t determine whether anything had been taken.

An Ohio resident’s 1998 Honda Civic was stolen from the 300 block of Essex St. Dec. 31 A postal delivery that was left at a Franklin Ave. residence was reported stolen. A resident’s bank account information was obtained and $8.99 was illegally withdrawn from the account via a bank in Denver, Col. A Pennsylvania resident’s 2000 Honda Civic was reported stolen from the municipal parking lot at Frank Rodgers Blvd. and Essex St.

Dec. 29

A Warren St. residence was burglarized when a rear entry to a basement apartment was forced open. Musical recording equipment was reported stolen from the apartment.

— Ron Leir