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Category: Police & Fire News

Have you seen this alleged Nutley burglar?

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NUTLEY —

Police say they are investigating a diversion burglary that allegedly occurred on Fischer Ave. on Dec. 9.

An elderly resident told police that a man banged on her front door at 3 p.m., Dec. 9, claiming there was a chemical spill a block away. Police say the man produced an identification card and asked to enter the resident’s basement. After allowing whom she believed to be an actual contractor downstairs, he turned on water, creating a noise distraction, police say. He then radioed someone saying all appeared to be in order. At this point, police say, a second man entered the home and ransacked the bedroom.

Police investigating the incident learned two men ran from the residence carrying hand-held radios and entered a black SUV parked on Hickory, containing two more men.

The New Jersey State Police, with the help of the victim, created a composite description of the man who is alleged to have come to the door (see above).

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Nutley Police Department’s Investigations Unit at 973-284-4940.

Help sought in cold case

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By Karen Zautyk
Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

Somebody knows something.

Six years ago, an 87-year-old man was deliberately run down by a car in a South Kearny parking lot and robbed while he lay helpless on the ground.

He died of his injuries the next day. Authorities ruled the death a homicide.

The Kearny Police Department and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office have been hunting the killers ever since, and as the anniversary of the crime is marked, they are making a renewed call for the public’s help in solving this cold case.

Do you recognize the suspect in the sketch? Did you ever hear any chatter on the streets? Any rumors? Read more »

Scammers out in force for holidays

NUTLEY – 

It may be holiday time but gremlins are out to spoil the festivities of the season.

Mayor/Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco and Police Chief Tom Strumolo are cautioning Nutley residents to be wary of scammers posing as government agents, utility workers or whatever, out to plunder families’ hardearned cash.

On Dec. 9, a Fischer Road resident contacted police with this hard luck story:

At 3 p.m., a man who, the elderly woman resident believed to be a construction worker, pounded on her front door and told her there was a chemical spill the next block over and he needed to check her basement water supply.

After displaying a fake ID, the resident allowed the man inside and led him down to the basement where he let the water run and then radioed an accomplice who, police said, entered the house and ransacked a bedroom.

The pair got away with an undisclosed amount of proceeds, police said.

Police said the phony construction worker was described as a Latino, 30 to 35, between 5-feet-7 and 6 feet, average build, 180 to 200 pounds, with dark hair, wearing blue jeans, a flannel shirt, dark jacket and dark color work boots.

Detectives are checking homes in the neighborhood for any surveillance footage that may have captured images of either of the burglars. Anyone who thinks they may have seen something or someone suspicious in the area at the time of the incident is asked to call Nutley PD at 973-284-4940.

“This is why we advise residents to avoid keeping valuables in their bedrooms because it’s usually the first place that burglars search,” said Nutley PD Det. Sgt. Anthony Montanari.

Chief Strumolo added that Nutley residents have been victimized several times in the past few years by burglars posing as utility workers. Running water in the basement prevents the resident from hearing someone else entering the house, he noted.

A criminal data search shows that more than 50 “diversion burglaries” with M.O.s similar to the Nutley incident and whose victims range in age from 70 to 80 have occurred in New Jersey during the past year and a half, according to Montanari.

Police said they were contacted about another scam on the same day as the Fischer Road burglary. The victim, another elderly woman, told police that a male caller who identified himself as an IRS agent threatened to have police arrest her for allegedly delinquent taxes. The woman was told to go to a pharmacy and forward a Green Dot payment to him and she complied, sending $4,000, before realizing she’d been swindled.

Strumolo said that crooks are more likely to prey on senior citizens who tend to be more trusting via phone scams or internet and social media tricks.

– Ron Leir 

Brothers rescue robbery victim, cops say

NORTH ARLINGTON –

Two brothers, both in law enforcement, were credited with thwarting a would-be street robbery in the borough last Wednesday night.

Police Chief Louis Ghione said the episode unfolded at about 10:45 p.m. after a 29-year-old woman exited a bus at the stop at Garden Terrace and Ridge Road and, as she was walking home, noticed that a man was following her.

Ghione said the woman crossed the street a couple of times in an effort to shake her pursuer but the man persisted so she pulled out her cellular phone to call for help.

As soon as she took out the phone, the man grabbed her handbag which was laced around her shoulder, and in doing so, pulled her to the ground, prompting her to scream for help, Ghione said.

Luckily, Anthony Ferrer, an off-duty sheriff’s officer, and Nicholas Ferrer, an off-duty corrections officer, happened to be in the area, heard her and came to her aid, managing to detain the man until officers arrived, the chief said.

The suspect, Michael Fernandez, 34, of Kearny, was charged with robbery, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. He was additionally charged with two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia after cops allegedly found a hypodermic needle and glassine pipe on him, according to Ghione.

“He’s an admitted heroin user,” the chief said.

As a result of her tussle with the suspect, the woman had bruises to her elbows and scrapes to her knees, he said. Fernandez was taken to the Bergen County Jail, pending court action, after failing to post $25,000 bail.

– Ron Leir 

KPD: Arrested in stolen Mercedes

A 2008 Mercedes-Benz parked in the lot near Applebee’s and Burger King on Passaic Ave. at 3 a.m. last Wednesday rightly caught the attention of patrol Officer Ben Wuelfing and resulted in the arrest of a Kearny man on charges of receiving stolen property, KPD Chief John Dowie reported.

After spotting the vehicle, Wuelfing checked its registration and found that it had been reported stolen in Harrison, Dowie said. When backup Officer Dean Gasser and Sgt. Pete Gleason arrived, they blocked in the car and took into custody its occupant, 34-year-old Steven Jackson, who also was allegedly in possession of a Garmin GPS unit and a Visa debit card in the name of a Harrison resident. A search of the Mercedes revealed a backpack, a duffle bag, a suitcase, a ski mask, a bag of jewelry and a receipt from a local pawn shop, police said.

Det. Lt. Anthony Gouveia is conducting a follow-up investigation.

Jackson was remanded to the Hudson County Jail.

• • •

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

Dec. 4

At 11 a.m., Officers Dave Rakowski and Cesar Negron responded to a Fish House Road business on a report of men stealing scrap metal — which, police said, is exactly what they found: two men tossing items into a U-Haul truck. The suspects were ordered to unload the truck and, after they complied, the management said it would not press charges. The officers checked the men’s documents and pedigrees and sent them on their way.

However, a subsequent check by Rakowski at headquarters reportedly revealed that one man, whose name had been misspelled on his ID, had two warrants: one from North Bergen and a $20,000 one from Kearny. The suspect, Bernard Brewer, 49, of Jersey City, had been linked to an August 2012 theft of a truck and its contents from a Sanford Ave. business, police said.

On Dec. 8, Sgt. Paul Bershefski and Dets. Mike Gonzalez and John Plaugic took Brewer into custody at a Jersey City residence.

• • •

Officer Daniel Esteves responded to Walmart at 4 p.m. to take into custody Edwin Santos, 29, of Newark, who allegedly had stolen a set of headphones.

Police said a search incident to arrest found him to be in possession of a marijuana cigarette and six prescription painkillers. He was charged on all three offenses.

Dec. 5 

At 9:30 a.m., Officer T.J. Hernandez investigated a report of vandalism at the hockey rink on Passaic Ave. at Afton St. and found it had been defaced with graffiti, including a racial slur, the letters “KKK” and a phallic symbol. The KPD is viewing this as a bias crime, and Det. Marc McCaffrey is conducting an investigation. After documenting the damage, police contacted the Kearny DPW to remove it.

• • •

Officer Brian Wisely responded to the 100 block of Schuyler Ave. at 8 p.m., after a resident notified police that two men had been banging on his door and then had fled across the street into West Hudson Park.

Wisely took the report.

At 9 p.m., the cops were again called to the apartment, where Officer Philip Finch found the 32-year-old occupant “bloody and bruised.”

His assailants were apparently the same two men who had visited earlier. The victim was taken to University Hospital, Newark, for treatment of head injuries.

The KPD is working on the case with Newark police.

Dec. 7 

At 7:15 p.m., Wisely and Esteves responded to a report of a dispute on the 600 block of Elm St., where the male party had allegedly thrown a knife at the female. She was not injured. But Neyrhi Pezez, 22, of Kearny, was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Dec. 8 

At 1:30 p.m., after a DPW employee reported a “large amount of graffiti” at the Windsor St. playground, Officer Sean Kelly found it defaced with profanities and sexually explicit references. Unlike the bias-related hockey rink vandalism, police said this appeared to be directed specifically at someone who frequents the park. The Juvenile Bureau is investigating.

Dec. 10 

Officer John Travelino arrested Augustin Camacho, 39, of Newark, at Walmart at 6 p.m. for allegedly attempting to steal a cell phone. Camacho was additionally charged on three outstanding warrants: two from Elizabeth and one from Newark.

• • •

At 7:40 p.m., a woman reported that, after she entered her car on the 600 block of Kearny Ave. –and, fortunately, immediately locked it — she had been threatened by a knife-wielding man who had banged on the driver’s-side window and demanded she open the door. She refused and was able to drive away unharmed. The man was described only as heavy-set. He was said to be wearing a hat and had his face partially covered. Police said there were no similar reports in the area.

• • •

Officer Jay Ward responded to an 8:15 p.m. report of an accident at King and Elm Sts. and found that a 2013 Hyundai, operated by Thomas Rowland, 60, of Kearny, had hit a parked Volkswagen. Police said Rowland appeared too intoxicated to perform field sobriety tests. He was subsequently charged with DWI, reckless driving and refusal to submit to an Alcotest, and his car was impounded.

– Karen Zautyk 

Take precautions if you’re expecting a delivery, HPD says

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HARRISON –

The Christmas Grinch has been busy in Harrison this season.

Police said that during the last five weeks or so, they’ve received reports of more than 20 package thefts from town residents.

Here’s an accounting of days and locations: Read more »

Nutley PD: Beware of Yuletide scammers

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NUTLEY –

It may be holiday time but gremlins are out to spoil the festivities of the season.

Mayor/Public Safety Commissioner Alphonse Petracco and Police Chief Tom Strumolo are cautioning Nutley residents to be wary of scammers posing as government agents, utility workers or whatever, out to plunder families’ hard-earned cash.

On Dec. 9, a Fischer Road resident contacted police with this hard luck story:

At 3 p.m., a man who, the elderly woman resident believed to be a construction worker, pounded on her front door and told her there was a chemical spill the next block over and he needed to check her basement water supply. Read more »

2 teens are charged in Kearny arson

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By Karen Zautyk 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

A cooperative investigation by the Kearny Fire Department and Police Department into a devastating house fire on Garfield Ave. last month has resulted in the arrest of two township youths on arson charges.

The suspects, aged 15 and 16, are both students at Kearny High School. After being taken into custody last week, they were remanded to the Hudson County Youth House.

Police Chief John Dowie characterized the boys’ actions as “just a random arson attack” as opposed to the targeting of specific victims.

The two-alarm blaze gutted a single-family home on Garfield Ave. at the corner of Elm St. on Nov. 10.

It was reported at 3 a.m. and quickly spread through the structure. The occupants, a man and a woman, were able to escape, but the man suffered minor smoke inhalation after he reentered the house to rescue three dogs, Dowie said.

KFD Chief Inspector John Donovan, who conducted the initial investigation, determined that the fire apparently started, not indoors, but outside the Elm St. side of the house, towards the rear of the property.

For it to begin outside, “it took some human intervention,” Donovan noted.

The starting point could also be identified by the burn patterns on the building.

Once arson was suspected, KPD Sgt. Rick Poplaski and Det. John Plaugic joined Donovan in the investigation. Plaugic canvassed the neighborhood for witnesses and obtained security videos from cooperative homeowners. Dowie said the footage showed “two shadowy figures” heading south on Elm at about the same time the blaze broke out.

After the direction of flight was determined, Plaugic, Det. Lt. Anthony Gouveia and Det. Michael Gonzalez located more residential videos. One tape, provided by a homeowner in the area of Elm St. and Bergen Ave., reportedly gave a clearer view of the suspects and the route they traveled.

Even clearer videos were then located by Gonzalez at two businesses near Bergen and Kearny Aves. These were provided to the KPD for viewing “in house” by patrol officers, Dowie said. Officer John Fabula passed the descriptions on to his street sources and obtained the first name of one possible suspect, and the department’s Kearny H.S. school resource officer, Steve Montanino, was then able to furnish the teen’s full name and address, Dowie reported.

On Dec. 2, after questioning at headquarters, the 16-yearold and, subsequently, his alleged 15-year-old accomplice, were charged with arson, aggravated arson and conspiracy to commit arson.

Kearny Fire Chief Steve Dyl, noting the “cooperative effort” between the departments, commended both Donovan for his “efforts and diligence” and the police for their “very good detective work.”

Citing the KPD, he said, “I’d like to applaud them.” Dowie thanked the homeowners and merchants who obligingly provided the police with access to their security videos, which helped crack the case.

Regarding two other recent Kearny fires, Donovan reported that a Nov. 20 blaze in a two-family home at 47 Beech St. was accidental and began with a space heater. He said the cause of the Nov. 23 apartment house fire at 425 Beech St. is still undetermined, “but we can’t rule out smoking.”

KPD: How sweet it is

On Dec. 1, Officers Tom Sumowski and Steve Hroncich, responding to a 3:30 a.m. report of a disorderly person in the area of Devon and Hoyt Sts., encountered an apparently intoxicated man holding a large black backpack that was “overflowing” with candy bars, KPD Chief John Dowie reported.

Scattered on the sidewalk were at least 10 more candy bars, Dowie said. And the pack reportedly contained parts from a vending machine, including the coin storage unit and a “substantial amount of change”: 53 quarters, 94 dimes and 30 nickels.

After learning that the man worked in the area, Dowie said, Officer John Travelino visited the company and found a damaged candy-vending machine, missing both its coin unit and a lot of candy.

Since no one saw the suspect, Geronimo Ramirez, 24, of Kearny, actually breaking into the machine, he was charged only with possession of the stolen property. However, he was also charged with illegal possession of a prescription drug, due to the 25 Xanax tablets allegedly in the backpack with the candy. And there was more to come.

While housed in a cell at headquarters, Ramirez reportedly broke the handle on a toilet and tore apart a mattress, resulting in a charge of criminal mischief.

• • •

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

Nov. 24 

On patrol in South Kearny at 8 p.m., Officers Brian Wisely and Rich Pawlowski spotted a Lincoln livery car in the weeds off Central Ave. The driver, Joseph Leon, 22, of Jersey City, who reportedly was seeking a secure place for a rendezvous, instead found a secure place at KPD headquarters after he was arrested on two outstanding Jersey City warrants.

Nov. 25 

Vice officers, patrolling at Kearny and Midland Aves. at 4:30 p.m., saw Joseph Calleja, 24, of Kearny, alight from a bus, did a warrant check and confirmed he was wanted on one each from North Arlington and Newark. He was booked and turned over to the North Arlington PD.

Nov. 26 

At 5 p.m., a man called HQ to report he had been hit in the face with a snowball at Johnston and Passaic Aves. Officer Wisely checked the area for the two suspects and, near ShopRite, reportedly saw one of them hurl a snowball at a passing car, causing the driver to swerve when the auto was hit. Alexander Nekrasow, 32, of Wayne, was arrested on a charge of interfering with transportation.

Nov. 28 

Just before midnight, Officers Jack Corbett and Dean Gasser responded to a two-vehicle accident in South Kearny and found a heavily damaged Mazda on the center divider of Rts. 1/9, where it had ended up after apparently hitting a Freightliner truck. The driver of the car, Shamsunda Singh, 58, of Jersey City, was charged with DWI, careless driving and refusal to take an Alcotest.

Nov. 30 

At midnight, Officer Jordenson Jean was dispatched to investigate a report that a loud party was taking place in an abandoned dwelling on Hillside Ave. Inside, he found a number of juveniles, empty beer cans/ bottles and the strong odor of marijuana. Several of the partiers fled, but he managed to corral seven, all of whom were charged with criminal trespass, underage possession of alcohol and curfew violations. The youths included three 17-year-old males, from Kearny, Harrison and Newark; two 16-year-old males, from Kearny and Harrison, and two 16-yearold Kearny females. All were turned over to their parents or guardians.

Dec. 2 

The KPD — which has increased traffic enforcement near Franklin School following “numerous complaints” of speeding, illegal parking, jaywalking, and parents dropping off kids in the roadway — was on site again at 9 a.m., when Sgt. John Taylor reportedly saw a driver double-park and discharge a child into the street. When approached by the officer, motorist Luis Mayorga, 33, of Hopatcong, was unable to produce a driver’s license and was subsequently charged with driving while suspended and improper discharge of a passenger.

Police said he also had two outstanding warrants from Newark.

Dec. 3 

Officer Damon Pein responded at 9:45 a.m. to a business on the 1200 block of Harrison Ave. and was advised by the manager that the front-gate lock had been cut and the building broken into. Stolen were 2,000 pounds of brass plumbing fixtures and several hundred feet of copper tubing. Also missing, from a trailer parked on the lot, was a substantial amount of work clothes. The total loss was estimated at $13,000. The case is under investigation by Det. Bryant Obie.

– Karen Zautyk 

News from the Nutley police blotter

Dec. 1 

A Hillside Ave. resident reported a case of identity theft. Police said someone had opened a utility account in Massachusetts using the resident’s personal information and the resident was billed $221.94 for the period from Oct. 20 to Nov. 18.

Dec. 2 

Coming home from work, a Hillside Ave. resident found that some of the upstairs rooms had been disturbed. Officers who responded found pry marks on the back door which, they surmised, was forced open. Detectives are investigating.

• • •

A resident told police their credit card had been compromised and two purchases totaling more than $500 had been charged on it at a Walmart in Bergen County. Another resident reported that while reviewing their checking account, they noticed two unauthorized charges for about $125.  Dec. 3 Someone made an unauthorized withdrawal of $500 from a resident’s account from an ATM in North Arlington, police said.

• • •

A Park Ave. resident reported that someone made two unauthorized charges on their Visa account at Bed Bath & Beyond and Publix in South Carolina. The resident was so advised by their financial institution, police said.

Dec. 4 

Someone stole a music mixer from a Passaic Ave. business. The owner told police that when their employee came to work, they noticed that a bucket had been positioned under a window and that there were footprints in the snow. Detectives are investigating.

Dec. 5 

Someone broke into a transport bus for one of the township’s Senior Citizen Home Care facilities, police said. The intruder damaged its passenger side door lock and punched the ignition and removed some paperwork from the vehicle, police said.

– Ron Leir