EDISON, NJ—Law Enforcement officials addressed the recent home invasions against Asian American families in Middlesex County live on TV Asia.
TV Asia is a nationwide television network that programming the focuses on issues relevant to the Indian community.
The panel of Middlesex law enforcement officials gave brief information about the crimes, delivered safety tips, and a called for a joint effort between the community and the police.
One of the panelists, Police Chief Thomas Bryan of Edison, addressed this issue one week earlier at a meeting with over 100 frustrated and fed up community members, during a two-hour question and answer.
This time, to avoid outbursts and unscreened responses, questions were written down and giving to the panelists, rather than asking them on a microphone.
Prosecutor Andrew Carey started the program with a speech on safety tips and ensuring the community that law enforcement is doing everything they can to address this issue.
“We are gathering as much intelligence as we can. We are working with different labs. We are conducting interviews. We are conducting scientific analysis where possible, and we are speaking with the crime scene experts through out the world in fact, and many who are in our backyard here,” said Carey.
Carey revealed that there have been similar instances of home invasions happening to Indian-Americans across the country, in states as far away as California.
“The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has spearheaded an investigation that has no geographic limits,” says Carey.
His office and other county law enforcement agencies have been working with the FBI, New Jersey Regional Operational Intelligence Center, and crime scene experts “all over the world,” Carey said.
Prosecutor Carey anticipated questions that people were likely to ask by answering them in his speech.
Q: Why hasn’t a description of the criminals been released?
A: “The answer is simple. The description I can give you here tonight would not be specific enough to help you. That’s simply the truth.”
Q: Is this a bias crime?
A: “That’s a difficult question to answer. Your community has been targeted, but targeted because people think that you have money and valuables in your homes that are easy to get to. A bias crime means that in addition to proving the other elements of the crime, I have to prove that a specific person did something because of a thought in their head. They did it because of a specific reason. I have to prove motive in addition to intent. It’s a difficult question. Your community is being targeted, but is it a bias crime? It’s a difficult question to answer."
Q: Why are we not telling you more details about the investigation?
A: “To do so would simply be to tip off the bad guy. I recognize that that’s a difficult pill to swallow. It means that you have to trust us, and that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to be here tonight, hoping that you would see us for what we are, individuals who are reaching out far and wide to try to do the best to protect you, and we are going to need your trust along the way for that.”
Each Police Chief gave a brief overview of the burglaries that occurred in their jurisdiction.
Old Bridge: The first two incidents in the series of burglaries occurred in Old Bridge on October 20 and October 26 in the later evening hours.
Two masked men forced entry into the home, restrained the residents and robbed the home of cash, appliances, and jewelry. Chief Robert Weiss reported that the Old Bridge Police Department has increased their patrol presence, both in uniform and undercover, to respond to calls quicker.
Edison: The most recent incident of home invasions to Indian Americans occurred in Edison on October 30.
The intruders were in the back of the home, and when the resident opened the back door to take out the garbage, the perpetrators entered the home, restrained the residents, removed their communication devices, and proceeded to rob the home.
One of the victims was able to use a laptop to contact someone from Montgomery, Pennsylvania, who then called the Edison Police, according to Chief Thomas Bryan.
South Plainfield: The break-in occurred on October 28 in the later evening hours.
The intruders forced entry into the home, secured the residents, and stole cash and jewelry. One victim sustained an injury and was treated at a hospital.
Chief Bryan responded to the claims of slow response times for the Edison Police Department, a concern that was brought up by residents several times at the last Edison town hall meeting.
“It wasn’t slow in regards to when my agency received the call and our first officer stepped out on the scene. There was a delay, and I kind of stated that earlier, that all means of communication were taken from the house by the perpetrators.”
“I have the CAD reports and the CAD reports reveal that when we received the call from Pennsylvania, it took just a couple minutes to assemble the information and get it out to the radio car, and the first radio car to respond there was there on scene within 2 minutes.”
“That’s not true!” shouted out an audience member, a thought that was echoed throughout community members at the previous week’s town hall.
At last week's town hall, residents claimed that their police calls have been answered hours or days later, or never at all.
During the question and answer, community members asked law enforcement questions in regards to their safety and actions the police are taking.
Q: Do we really need to get armed?
A: “As the chief law enforcement officer of this county, the answer is no. More guns is not going to help. If the bad guy knows you have a gun he will be less likely to take kindly to you, leave it at that. And if a police officer responding knows there is a gun in the home and isn’t sure who has it at the time, that’s an increased safety issue as well. More guns is not the way out of this,” stated Prosecutor Carey.
Q: When these criminals are caught and arrested will they be able to post bail and will the neighborhoods be notified when they post bail or are convicted?
A: “Bail, as you know, is set by the court. We will ask for a extremely high bail, or no bail if possible, but that is up to the court,” Prosecutor Carey responded.
Q: Should we install security cameras?
A: Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan stated that security cameras have led to the arrest of the man responsible for a recent bank robbery in Edison, as well as a burglary. Old Bridge Police Chief Robert Weiss stated that he and Mayor Owen Henry recently discussed two incidents that were resolved with the help of security cameras.
Chief Weiss warned that off-the-shelf security cameras are useful during the day, but not as clear visually at night.
Q: What happens to the victims?
A: “At the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, we have a very active victim witness advocacy program, where from the beginning we are in touch with the victim and we talk to the victim, we talk to the family, we tell them what services are available, and we are with them the whole way. We try also as best as we can to respect their privacy,” Prosecutor Carey responded.
Q: For the past few years we have seen an increase in crime during Diwali, a highly celebrated Indian holiday. Why have their not been an increase in patrol cars during this time?
A: “We operate within the constraints of the manpower we have. Through things like intelligence of policing, we have the ability to flex officers perhaps from one area to another area when we know that there is a greater increase chance in crime. The Indian American community in Old Bridge is throughout the entire community, though it is a little bit more focused in some areas,” Chief Weiss responded.
“And what I would do is, I would ensure you that we are protecting all areas equally, and should something occur, we will flex our police officers there…I am not quite certain that it would be fair for all of the other residents of Old Bridge, to deny them their police protection, to strengthen one area when we do not have a justification. There are holidays throughout the year, we are aware of all of them, we are cautious of when we let officers have off because of those holidays, but we operate within the constraints that we have,” said Weiss.
Q: Why is it taking to so long to catch the criminals?
A: We here in America and Middlesex watch a lot of TV. We watch shows like CSI and Law and Order, and in a matter of 60 minutes we go from a crime occurring to a sentence being given.
"If we don’t get evidence that leads us to a criminal, there is very little we can do, other than to keep hammering away at it until we find that break that leads us there. We are asking you to be patient, and you do need to be patient and understand that we would like to have them tonight as much as you would, be we can only operate with the evidence that we have. We believe that these criminals have been in your neighborhoods before, that they knew where they were going, and so you are perhaps the most important tool that we have," responded Chief Weiss.
Here are some safety tips that were given from Middlesex County law enforcement and security specialists:
- See something? Say something. Call the police.
- Lock your doors and windows
- Don’t let your trees and shrubs block your view of outside your home
- Report instances of people walking around your neighborhood who are not your neighbors
- Keep your keys nearby. Setting off a car alarm is likely to scare away a perpetrator.
- Make sure that exterior lighting on the home works.
- If you are away from your home for an extended period of time, use light timers rather than keeping the light on for the entire time.
- Support and participate in your neighborhood watch programs
- Keep valuables in a safety deposit box
- Install a security alarm system
To report any tips or information on crimes in Middlesex County, contact the Middlesex County Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-939-9600.