EDISON, NJ—Edison residents came out by the hundreds on November 5, bringing along lots of built up frustration about the recent home invasions and attacks on Asian-American families.
“I am not scared. I am angry. I pay taxes in this town and year after year the same BS happens,” one resident shouted out.
The most recent invasion occurred on October 30, where two masked assailants entered the home, and restrained the the mother, father, and two children with duct tape, while they searched the house for valuables.
The home invasion follows another October 28 incident in South Plainfield, where family of five was accosted, and incidents in Old Bridge on October 20 and 26.
Asian Indian families also were accosted and restrained in those incidents as gunmen ransacked the homes and took valuables including cash and electronics.
“In each of the burglaries, two or more masked men, armed with handguns, entered the homes through rear entrances, restrained occupants and ransacked the homes in search of valuables,” reads a statement by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office.
“There will be no comment on whether the burglaries are related, or whether they were committed by the same individuals.”
At the special meeting, Edison Police Chief Thomas Bryan started the meeting with a presentation on how to keep you and your family safe such as:
- Keep your doors locked
- Don’t walk alone at night
- Be aware of your surroundings
“To be honest, these tips were a little insulting to my intelligence,” said one resident. “We already know all of these things. We want to know what you are going to do to help us.”
Residents claimed that the same presentation was given last year after multiple home invasions, telling personal stories of home invasions and other crimes that they called in or reported, and did not receive a response from the police.
Chief Bryan insisted that their department responds to every call and has an average of a 4-minute response time.
Bruam said the department’s close out rate, or the percentage of cases where the perpetrator was captured and brought to justice, is 78%, and the national average is 13%.
During the question and answer porition of the meeting, residents let out their frustrations, and echoed three main demands:
- more police cars patrolling the streets, and less police on desk duty
- release the findings about recent cases of home invasion
- explain strategies police have to keep the community safe
“The police should step up and take more security measures to protect the people of Edison because the recent burglaries, not just in Edison, but Old Bridge and other areas have been pretty badly impacted” stated one resident.
Chief Bryan stated that several years ago there were 215 Edison officers, but since then numbers have dwindled. He said that there are 15 new hires, “the most that has been hired in 20 years”.
Bryant attributes the lower number of officers to budget cuts, but that the department is working to compensate for.
“I was the only one that voted no on the budget” Councilwoman Sapana Shah told FiOS 1 News.
Some residents expressed their belief that recent invasions have been hate crimes.
Chief Bryan could not confirm nor deny those claims, as he cannot discuss details of any investigations.
“We are certainly culturally aware of what’s going on,” Bryan said. “Our police department needs to reflect the community that it services. I am happy to say that we have hired Asian officers, black officers.”
The police department currently has 2 Asian officers, according to Bryan.
“We are hiring trained officers. They come from another force instead of spending time to get them through the academy.”
Residents also demanded more patrol cars and substations, but the Chief did not think substations would solve the problem.
“Occupied or unoccupied buildings will not make your community safe. Officers patrolling will make your community safe”.
After being questioned several times about the number of officers on patrol, Bryan revealed that the department is limited by a union agreeement to a maximum of 26 patrol officers on duty at one time, but out of protection for the community, he did not want to reveal any other specifics.
With six different policing districts, and nearly 100,000 residents living within 30 square miles, residents were not satisfied with that number.
Residents and officials will revisit these issues on Wednesday, November 12, in a televised panel discussion sponsored by the Indian Business Association at 6pm in the TV Asia Studio on 76 National Road in Edison.
Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey, Freeholder H. James Polos, and representatives of numerous law enforcement agencies will be participating in “a community forum to discuss residents’ concerns over a series of home invasions in Old Bridge, South Plainfield, and Edison.”
Authorities from the FBI and the New Jersey State Police also have been invited. Audience members will be asked to submit questions in writing.
Those seeking to attend the televised panel discussion are asked to contact Satish Poondi, legal advisor to the Indian Business Association, at (732) 762-6394.