>There are some residents in Middletown wondering what’s going on around town. They have been hearing from friends and neighbor about a rash of car break-ins and burglaries that have been ongoing throughout the township. When they look in the local newspapers’ Police Blotter or Township News section for information about these crimes, there never seems to be any crimes listed or reported on from Middletown. It’s almost as if crime statistics are being covered up or not reported.
Sure there are some of crimes being reported, like the guy who punched out a Middletown Police officer at Target on the morning of “Black Friday” or the guy who attempted to shoplift a shopping cart full of items from the Port Monmouth Foodtown on November 23rd and even more recently, the bookkeeper who was stealing benefits from her boss. But very seldom do you hear news about car or home break-ins.
During the November 15, 2010 Township Committee meeting Lincroft resident Melanie Elmiger, voiced her concerns about the number of home break-ins in the Lincroft area. She stated that she could not find any information in the newspapers about these crimes and that she was made aware of them through an email chain. She said that she would like to see some type of informational alert sent out by the Police Chief using the Township’s reverse 9-1-1 system telling residents that they need to be more vigilant, and that the township’s website should have tips on how to keep homes more secure. Ms. Elmiger wanted the Committee to acknowledge that there was (is) a problem and that something is going to be done so people can feel safer.
The Township Administrator Tony Mercantante stated that this was a problem in many of the surrounding towns, not just Middletown. He said that the police have measures in place to deal with this and are actively pursuing this problem.
Ms. Elmiger then asked if the Township Committee had any answers as to how to improve the patrols around town, to which Mercantante responded that the police chief addresses the police and that while people may not see a patrol car in the neighborhood, they are being patrolled throughout the day.
Ms. Elmiger left the podium not very satisfied with the response that was given to her even though Tony Mercantante gave a credible answer that made some sense, that is, if you know there is a problem than you let those that have the expertise deal with it. You don’t want to tip off anyone that may be committing crimes in the area, by announcing that patrols would be stepped up or additional measures will be taken in different areas around town to scare would be robbers away if you may have clues or patterns to the break-ins that may lead to an arrest. And apparently 3 weeks later that is exactly what happened. On December 7th the Middletown Police arrested Manuel Cortez, from Barnegat NJ, for committing multiple residential burglaries in Middletown over a six-month period.
This was great news for Lincroft residents; they thought that their local crime problems were over. Unfortunately however, emails between neighbors are still addressing this issue, break-ins are still taking place in the Lincroft section of town, as well as others, with no notices being made about them in any sort of timely or informative manner. It is a lack of this type of information that is leading many residents wondering if crime in Middletown is somehow being covered up or under reported.
Those that control the town are very proud of the fact that Middletown has been named one of the Best 100 Places To Live in America by Money Magazine in three of it’s last five surveys. One of the few criteria that Money magazine bases its ratings on is “Local Crime Rate” and according the survey Middletown averages 15 personal property crimes per 1,000 crimes reported, which is lower than the 24 crimes per average of the rest of the Top 100 towns.
Residents question whether or not it is because of the superficial Money Magazine Top 100 ranking, that local crime reports are not being properly disseminated. They are feeling that their safety, personal property and wellbeing are less important to local officials than it is to maintain Money Magazine’s approval as one of the best places to live.
At times it sure seems that way.
Who decides what information is released after a crime is committed and what makes one type of crime more reportable than another? This is a process that residents want to know about; it seems to be a guarded secret.
By not informing residents of particular types of crimes in their area, are local officials acting responsibly? Many residents don’t think so; they want to know what is happening and what is being done to combat the problem.
If the economy continues to remain in the doldrums and many more lose their jobs in the coming year, crime will naturally continue to be a problem. I don’t think it is much to ask of our local officials, that they keep residents informed of what is happening in their community. Why should residents need to rely on email chains from family, friends and neighbors to remain informed about such issues? It doesn’t make sense.