WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Residents are locking their cars and homes. Neighborhood break-ins and burglaries have skyrocketed in just the last two months.
Peter Strumolo and his wife were among the victims. One of their two BMWs was left unlocked and personal items inside were taken. The suspects were able to get into the second vehicle using keys.
“They got into this vehicle, and we’re assuming they got the keys out of this vehicle to drive the other vehicle off the premises, because we are missing one set of keys to the second vehicle,” Strumolo told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.
West Orange police confirmed a dramatic spike in crime since April 1. There has been a total of 97 attempted and actual home break-ins and stolen cars — many through unlocked doors.
That statistic contrasts with much smaller numbers for the same crimes during the same two months last year.
“You reduce the police department basically by 25 percent, it’s going to reduce our effectiveness,” said Michael Cassidy of the West Orange PBA.
Cassidy blames the crime spike on budget cuts and layoffs. Eight officers were let go as of March 15 — two weeks before the uptick in crime.
Police Chief James Abbott said there was no question numbers were up, but argued they may stem from the down economy and steady unemployment.
“No police chief or union official for that matter has a crystal ball to say that if you lay off cops, crime is going to go up. I don’t think that’s a fair statement to make to the people. I think its a scare tactic,” Abbott said.
That point could be evidenced in other communities around West Orange also reporting similar increases in crimes. However, the police union said those communities have also seen layoffs.
“There’s 3,000 less officers in the state of New Jersey right now…it’s hurting us,” Cassidy said.
Tami Strumolo said her second BMW still hasn’t been found, and the one that was recovered was never dusted for fingerprints in a neighborhood that many say used to be safe.
“It took 10 days, at least 10 days to get the police report back which is unheard of,” she said, adding the community was “unfortunately not as safe as we thought.”
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