STAFFORD – A recent social media post suggests Stafford locals could take matters into their own hands if they catch the vandals cutting their inflatable Christmas decorations and destroying the motors that keep them afloat.
“I have spoken to a few residents, and they are not taking this lightly,” posted Michael Rooster Pfancook. “If they catch whoever is doing this, they aren’t calling the police 1st (sic).”
Councilman Michael Pfancook acknowledged he wrote the post on Facebook from his private account. Pfancook emphasized he did not do so in his capacity as an elected official. The councilman, who finishes his term in office this year, said he received legal advice regarding his use of social media.
“I cannot go on there (Facebook) as a councilman and say certain things,” Pfancook said. “I can do whatever I want from my own personal page, because I have First Amendment rights just like everybody else.”
Pfancook declined to identify the names of residents who indicated they would take action before calling law enforcement authorities. Although he does not have inflatables on his own lawn, he had no problem sharing how he would personally handle someone who trespassed on his property with a knife to cause damage.
“If they came to my property with a weapon in their hand, I have every right to defend my family and my house,” stated Pfancook. “If it’s a thirteen- or fifteen-year-old kid, once I go out, they’re going to take off anyway.”
Criminal defense attorney Robert Ungvary advised against residents using any type of force and especially cautioned against the use of deadly force.
“The law clearly says the use of deadly force in defense of personal property is most often not justified,” Ungvary explained. “Force itself actually would require the homeowner to first request the vandals leave the property. The best thing to do is take pictures and give the police as much information as possible.”
Although no one has owned up to witnessing the Christmas display vandals in action, Pfancook and others who responded to his post believe teenagers are the culprits. As far as Pfancook is concerned, he feels parents are doing a poor job with raising their kids. He’s tired of the teens getting away with things and others defending them.
More than a few people openly admitted they saw no issue with taking matters into their own hands. One suggested homeowners should at least detain the vandals, while another said “if you wanna play stupid games, your (sic) going to win stupid prizes.”
Pfancook hit the streets on Sunday and visited homes with inflatables set up on their lawns. He wanted to make sure that people who do not use social media were aware of the vandals. Pfancook claims five homes in Ocean Acres and a number in the Settlers section of Barnegat incurred damages.
Meanwhile, another group of individuals had a hard time at maintaining their outrage at the suggestion that residents take matters into their own hands.
“I feel like the councilman is advocating for vigilante justice against the suspected teenagers,” shared Ranée Abbruzzese of Manahawkin. “Even if he is writing from his personal account, everyone knows he serves as an elected official.”
Stafford Police Captain James R. Vaughn termed the vandalism as “unfortunately, typical for this time of the year.” As the local department continues its investigation, no witnesses or video evidence of the crimes have surfaced.
“Obviously people aren’t out and up all night,” Vaughn said. “Keeping some exterior lights on or a RING doorbell camera or something like it, are great options.”