BRICK – The township police department has had to cancel some community events this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but a Community Watch meeting went on as scheduled since it was recently held outdoors at Cherry Quay Beach.
Some 20 residents of the waterfront community came out to hear Officers Brendan Barnes and Sean Flynn teach the group how to make their community safer.
“We’re not here because your neighborhood is having problems,” said Officer Barnes. “We want to gather information that’s passed on from [community watch members] to our patrol units. A simple call can help to establish probable cause.”
In the past, neighborhood watch groups throughout the U.S. would have citizens patrol on foot and in cars, but that has become outdated and “extremely dangerous,” said Officer Barnes.
Now, cell phones and home security systems are a big help to law enforcement, he said.
“We tell people, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up, if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not right,” said Officer Barnes. “Take account of your surroundings – everyone has an intuition.”
For example, if there are multiple unknown cars circling in the neighborhood, try to take photos of the license plates or of the drivers, then email or text the photos to the police department.
“It seems miniscule, but it can be something great,” he said. “We pass the information on to our patrols and get a lot of arrests.”
If you wish to remain anonymous, simply hit *67 before dialing a phone number, which blocks your name to the person you are dialing, said Officer Barnes.
Cell phones can also help with speeding cars, he said. Take a photo of the license plate and contact the Traffic Safety Unit. Repeat offenders will get a letter and even a summons, he said.
The biggest problem in Brick right now occurs when cars are left unlocked, said Officer Flynn. Every year throughout the area a stolen car ring operates and in every single case, the car was left unlocked with the key fob inside.
“They steal it. They recently hit Midstreams and Point Pleasant Beach, and they use juveniles because they won’t get in trouble,” he said.
People leave cell phones, wallets, purses and packages in their unlocked vehicles, which makes them an easy target, Officer Flynn explained.
Residents can make their homes safer by locking the doors and windows and installing good lighting, which are the basics of home safety, said Officer Barnes. Avoid planting shrubs and trees close to the house where people can hide, he said.
“These are simple things that can deter criminals,” he said. “If people really want to get into your house, they’ll get into your house, but usually they’re not brain surgeons,” he joked.
Officer Murphy said in most home burglary cases, junkies need another fix and they don’t want to get caught.
“They don’t want to work hard, they’re scaredy cats, they just want a quick fix,” he said. “They need to feed the beast to stay alive, so keep the house well-lit.”
Another deterrent to neighborhood crime is surveillance systems such as Ring, which can serve as a neighborhood portal. While Officer Barnes said they weren’t telling residents to buy the system, the information can be shared with the police.
The home security system was key in apprehending the suspect in last year’s shooting near Brick Memorial High School, he said.
Officer Barnes said that there are some 45 Neighborhood Watch groups in Brick, and the officers have held over 100 meetings with various neighborhood groups.
“We have about 10 more neighborhoods in which we are looking to establish Neighborhood Watch groups, and then every neighborhood will have a group,” said Officer Barnes.