BY TOM CLANCEY
OF NORTHERN VALLEY PRESS
BERGEN COUNTY, N.J. —— Investigators have called it a crime spree. Others may say it’s preventable with some common sense techniques.
But as Bergen County residents continue to leave cars unlocked overnight, thieves keep on helping themselves to valuables and driving off in luxury cars—that is, when the keys or key fobs are available to them.
During the last month there have been 30 thefts of high end vehicles in 19 Bergen County towns, the county prosecutor’s office said in a public advisory issued on Nov. 27.
“During this crime spree, actors looking to steal vehicles check door handles to determine if a vehicle is unlocked,” said Prosecutor Gurbir S. Grewal, in a statement. “If the keys are left in the unlocked vehicle, the actor(s) simply enter the vehicle, start the vehicle, and drive away.”
Reduce your risk of becoming a victim, Grewal said: don’t leave keys, or remote key fobs in an unattended vehicle; lock your vehicle; and don’t leave any valuable items in plain view inside the vehicle.
“If there are any suspicious individuals lurking around a driveway at any time during the day or night, residents should immediately contact [their] local police department,” Grewal said.
The crimes are happening during the overnight hours and local police departments are aware and actively investigating, Grewal said.
In August, Northern Valley Press reported that the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office had secured indictments against four defendants alleging they conspired to steal numerous luxury cars in eight state municipalities, including Closter.
The case offered a glimpse into what Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said was “big business for these defendants,” saying they “allegedly scoured wealthy residential areas for the luxury cars they prized, typically stealing them right from their owners’ driveways.”
Porrino said defendants allegedly would “cool off” cars, parking them in quiet spots, until some time passed and the cars could be loaded onto shipping containers to be placed on cargo vessels or sold domestically.
As that case progressed, incidents continued to be reported by local police .
In the Northern Valley Press Police Blotter, we have reported a smattering of related incidents:
• On July 23, a Cresskill resident reported their car was stolen while they were traveling.
• Overnight between July 26 and July 27, Haworth police said that a string of car burglaries were reported.
• On July 29, Tenafly police reported an Oak Street resident had valuables stolen from a car.
• On July 29, Demarest police said one car was stolen from Hardenburgh Avenue. On July 30, a car on Duane Lane in Demarest was reported stolen. Both were unlocked with keys inside.
• On July 31, a Churchill Road resident in Tenafly reported their 2015 Land Rover was stolen from their driveway.
• On Aug. 25, an Engle Street resident in Tenafly reported that their 2017 Mercedes-Benz was stolen from their driveway.
• On Aug. 31, a Ridge Road, Tenafly, resident reported that their black 2015 BMW X5M was stolen from their driveway.
• On Oct. 6, Cresskill police reported a vehicle was stolen from McGrath Drive.
• On Oct. 25, a car was reported stolen from Blue Hill Road in Norwood. A neighbor reported a briefcase was stolen from a car on the same date.
• On Oct. 26, Closter police reported that a Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle was stolen from the east hill section of the borough.
• On Oct. 26 in Englewood Cliffs, an unlocked car with the key fob inside of it was stolen from a residence. Utilizing an app accessible to track the car, the owner and police traced its location to a parking lot in Irvington, borough police reported. The car was able to be recovered by Englewood Cliffs Police and the state police auto task force; The car was returned to its owner within 48 hours of the theft, police said.
• On Oct. 29, Closter police reported that a Maserati was also stolen from the east hill section.
In issuing the public advisory, titled “Rise in theft of high end motor vehicles,” Grewal did not provide a specific accounting of the 30 incidents he said happened “during the last month,” but the prosecutor’s office did provide a map showing incident locations.
“On two occasions, multiple vehicles have been stolen from the same home,” Grewal said.