Package theft a concern

By JENNIFER ORTIZ and KENNY WALTER
Staff Writers

 STAFF PHOTGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR STAFF PHOTGRAPHER ERIC SUCAR The theft of packages delivered to doorsteps is becoming a bigger problem as more and more people shop online for their Christmas gifts.

Woodbridge Police Capt. Roy Hoppock said package theft has become a growing issue, and there are very few ways to address it.

“It’s a problem. It’s a crime of opportunity is what it comes down to,” he said. “So many more people are [shopping online] and more and more packages are being left on people’s front steps, and people drive by and they see them and they grab them.”

Hoppock said Woodbridge police recently made an arrest involving package theft and charged a woman with three counts of theft by unlawful taking after three packages were taken from an apartment complex on Dec. 7 in the Fords section of Woodbridge.

“We did a follow-up and on Dec. 13 we made an arrest of a female that was staying at [a nearby hotel],” he said. “Most of the time it is difficult to make an arrest unless there is video.”

According to Hoppock, some shoppers utilize their neighbors in an effort to thwart any potential theft.

“If they have the luxury of having some neighbors that don’t work or if the person knows there is going to be a delivery in a day or two, let your neighbor know,” Hoppock said. “That seems to be the best, but not everybody has that luxury.”

Howell Police Detective Sgt. Christian Antunez said thefts of this nature occur sporadically throughout the year, but increase in frequency significantly during the holiday season. He said that as of Dec. 14, police had received at least five reports of thefts of packages since Nov. 1.

“The number is likely higher because some people do not report the thefts to police. We strongly encourage residents to report any thefts to the police department,” Antunez said.

In a public awareness announcement, Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick said most thefts of packages occur during the afternoon and/or early evening hours.

Victims are asked to report thefts online at www.howellpolice.org or call the police. In the event the person who stole the item is caught, the merchandise could be returned, Kudrick said.

“Once the item is confirmed to have been delivered and most likely stolen, call the police immediately and file a report with as much information about the theft as possible, including the number of boxes, the items stolen, the value of items stolen, carrier, the time and date of delivery,” Antunez said.

He said the Ramtown area of Howell south of Lakewood-Allenwood Road appeared to be a target for this type of illegal activity.

“We are adding extra patrols in the area to stop and identify suspicious vehicles and persons and to increase visibility. This also includes plainclothes personnel,” Antunez said, adding that the reported thefts remain under investigation.

He said police are working diligently to investigate the crimes that have occurred and to prevent future crimes.

“We encourage residents to be vigilant and to contact the police immediately if they see suspicious vehicles or people in their neighborhood. Suspicious vehicles can include vehicles driving aimlessly, very slowly, up and down the street, apparently lost, such as driving down cul-de-sacs or dead end streets, and other similar actions.

“Suspicious people can exhibit similar behavior and also include clothing meant to conceal their identity, approaching houses and then asking about lost dogs or other fictitious stories when confronted by homeowners and other similar behavior,” Antunez said. “Unfortunately, we cannot be everywhere at once, so we ask that residents bring their delivered packages inside as soon as possible to limit their exposure to thieves. We also ask that neighbors be aware of their surroundings as much as possible to protect the community and to look out for one another.” Kudrick suggested residents might want to view a www.travelers.com “How to Protect Yourself from Package Theft and ID Fraud” article. Tips include having packages delivered at work or choosing a specific delivery time if the retailer provides such an option. Delivery alerts and a trusted neighbor to take one’s package inside for safekeeping are also advised.

“There are undesirables always looking to take advantage of you,” Kudrick said, adding that residents should be aware of their surroundings.

Manalapan Lt. Edward Niesz said the Manalapan Police Department has tips for consumers shopping online.

“We try to get people to either use one of the shipping locations to pick up there, to have the tracking devices so they know exactly when their package is going to be arriving or set up a delivery with a friend, or what a lot of people do now is have packages delivered to their place of employment,” Niesz said.

Niesz said while the problem seems to be growing nationwide, it hasn’t been that big of an issue in Manalapan.

“There is a heightened awareness about it and in our township it hasn’t been as much of a problem,” he said. “In Manalapan we haven’t seen a great increase in it as of late, it’s been sporadic here and there.”

Niesz said while it is difficult to solve crimes involving stolen packages, a lot of homeowners are now using surveillance cameras and uploading the footage to social media to help identify the perpetrators.

Michael, the supervisor of customer service for the U.S. Postal Service in Red Bank, who wouldn’t disclose his last name, said the growing theft problem began about six years ago as online shopping increased.

He said mail carriers are taught different ways to conceal packages so they are not just left in plain site.

“If they have a screen door and the package fits, a lot of times the carriers will put it in between the doors,” Michael said. “Sometimes if they have a side door, they will do something like that, but other than that there is nothing to prevent it.”

Residents are being put on notice that packages delivered to and left outside homes are a target for thieves, particularly around the holidays.

“It is getting worse and worse,” Michael said. “After Thanksgiving is when it becomes larger.

“That’s when it becomes big but it is an all year round problem.”

In a statement from United Parcel Service (UPS), which delivers an estimated 630 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, the company has not seen an increase in package theft in recent years.

“UPS delivers about 18 million packages every day, and our data indicate that the rate of incidents involving UPS has been relatively flat over the last few years,” the statement reads. “We have procedures in place to ensure all of our packages are properly delivered.

“We alert our drivers and seasonal driver helpers to specific incidents where law enforcement has contacted us. If a customer contacts UPS to report a stolen package, UPS would work with the original shipper through our claims process to make the consumer whole.”

Delivery tips

 If you are not going to be home, have your packages delivered to work, a neighbor’s or relative’s house

 Have your package delivered to a local store for pick-up

 Track your package so you can be notified when a package arrives

 Pick up the package from the delivery company’s closest facility

 Ask the shipper to require a signature confirmation for delivery

 Give the delivery company instructions where packages can be left out of sight from the road

Spicuzzo released from prison after serving two of nine-year sentence

By JENNIFER AMATO
Staff Writer

Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo has been released from jail.

Spicuzzo was sentenced in 2013 to nine years in prison for running a jobs-for-cash scheme that yielded him approximately $112,000 in bribes from those seeking positions or promotions in the sheriff’s department, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said at the time.

He was released from the Central Reception and Assignment Facility (CRAF) in Trenton on Dec. 17, according to a receptionist at the CRAF. Spicuzzo had to serve at least two years before becoming eligible for parole. He faced numerous charges in the scheme, but entered into a deal in which he pleaded guilty to only one of them.

The 70-year-old Helmetta resident was sentenced in state Superior Court in Monmouth County on Sept. 20, 2013, after pleading guilty to a charge of accepting $25,000 in exchange for a job in his office. He was the Middlesex County sheriff for three decades, from 1980 until his 2010 retirement, and was chairman of the Middlesex County Democratic Organization for 16 years.

Former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Investigator Darrin P. DiBiasi, 47, of Monmouth Junction, and former Middlesex County Sheriff’s Officer Paul A. Lucarelli, 50, of South River, also submitted guilty pleas. The two men admitted to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant.

DiBiasi was sentenced on Sept. 20, 2013, to 364 days in jail, five years probation, 200 hours community service and a $5,000 fine.

Lucarelli was sentenced to three years probation, fined $2,500 and ordered to perform 500 hours of community service during his sentencing on Oct. 4, 2013.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@gmnews.com.

No information available about weapons seized in North Brunswick

NORTH BRUNSWICK — An undisclosed number of weapons have been seized from a residence on Livingston Avenue.

The weapons were taken during an investigation by the North Brunswick Police Department, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the FBI, according to a statement released on Dec. 18 by Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Director Kenneth McCormick of the North Brunswick Police Department.

The investigation is active and is continuing. No other information is available at this time.

End-of-year campaign targets drunk drivers

Local law enforcement agencies will be cracking down on drivers impaired by alcohol or drugs as part of the annual end-of-year “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” statewide campaign.

Through Jan. 1, police officers will conduct saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints looking for motorists who may be driving while intoxicated.

The national effort endeavors to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving through a combination of high-visibility enforcement and public education.

Last year, 27 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities in New Jersey were alcohol-related. Nationally, more than 10,000 people die each year in drunk driving crashes.

In December 2013 alone, there were 733 people killed in crashes involving a drunk driver with 23 of these deaths occurring on Christmas Day.

The societal cost associated with these crashes is estimated to be $37 billion annually. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Law enforcement agencies participating in the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over 2015 Year End Holiday Crackdown offer the following advice for holiday season:

– Take mass transit, a taxicab or ask a sober friend to drive you home;

– Spend the night where the activity or party is held;

– If you see an impaired driver on the road, contact law enforcement; and

– Always use a seat belt.

Coca-Cola fined for serious health and safety violations

SOUTH BRUNSWICK — The Coca- Cola distribution warehouse in Monmouth Junction has been fined more than $61,000 for repeat and serious safety and health workplace violations.

Coca-Cola Refreshments USA Inc.’s distribution warehouse at 60 Deans Rhode Hall Road was cited for four repeat and two serious safety and health violations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Dec. 11.

OSHA inspectors cited repeat violations for hazards associated with obstructed exit routes, lack of illuminated emergency exit signs, unmarked exits and improper storage of compressed gas cylinders, according to a statement prepared by OSHA.

The serious violations were related to unguarded floor holes and lack of refresher training related to forklifts.

“Blocked exit routes and unmarked exits pose a serious danger to Coca-Cola’s warehouse employees, as they prevent quick escape in case of an emergency,” said Patricia Jones, director of OSHA’s Avenel office. “Employers have a legal obligation to ensure workers have a safe and healthy workplace, and will be held accountable when they fail to do so.”

To view the citations, visit www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Coca-ColaRefreshmentsUSAInc_ 1070964.pdf.

Townhouse resident killed during accidental fire

SOUTH BRUNSWICK — Police have identified the man who died in a townhouse fire on Dec. 11.

John Doran, 59, lived at 27 Deerberry Lane with another family member who was not home at the time of the fire, according to a statement prepared by Capt. James Ryan of the South Brunswick Police Department.

The Middlesex County Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy over the weekend; the official cause of death is pending additional test results.

Doran suffered from several medical conditions and had limited mobility, Ryan said.

Fire investigators from the South Brunswick Fire Marshal Office, the Middlesex County Fire Marshal Office and the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office have determined the cause of the fire to be accidental, Ryan said.

When firefighters arrived at 2:45 p.m. for the smell of smoke in an adjacent townhouse, the fire had already been burning for some time, officials said. The fire was extinguished within minutes of its discovery.

“On arrival we began to check the entire twelve units of the building. We quickly picked up high levels of carbon monoxide and began to search for the cause. I came around the opposite side of the building from the initial caller and saw smoke coming from one of the doors and a blackened window. I knew we had a fire inside that unit,” Kendall Park Fire Chief Chris Perez said. “Firefighters had the blaze extinguished within minutes, but the damage was extensive.”

The fire created extensive damage to the first-floor townhouse. After the fire was extinguished, firefighters located Doran deceased in the home.

All residents were allowed back into their homes by 7 p.m.

Stroke of Creativity uses art to help people cope with life’s challenges

 Brandywine Senior Living resident Alice Leach and A Stroke of Creativity owner Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio. Brandywine Senior Living resident Alice Leach and A Stroke of Creativity owner Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio. Ten residents of Brandywine Senior Living in Princeton enjoyed an afternoon of ceramic painting in Monroe to express their creativity.

The seniors were able to pick a sculpture from a large selection to paint at A Stroke of Creativity on Englishtown Road on Nov. 18.

“This was our first experience of many to come at A Stroke Of Creativity,” said Stephanie Gaber, activity director at Brandywine Senior Living. “The owners of this creative shop were patient, caring and very hands-on.”

Patty Lang was a special education teacher in Watchung. One day in 2008 she suffered a stroke while driving home. On that very same day, her husband Bob Lang lost his job at Avis.

As Bob Lang was without work, he was able to take care of their three children while his wife recovered.

 Brandywine resident Kirt Wedemeyer, left to right, A Stroke of Creativity owner Bob Lang, resident Nancy Pike and resident Harriet Strauss work together on a project. Brandywine resident Kirt Wedemeyer, left to right, A Stroke of Creativity owner Bob Lang, resident Nancy Pike and resident Harriet Strauss work together on a project. “During my recovery my occupational therapist got me involved in painting. I had never painted before,” said Patty Lang, who explained it helped speed her recovery. “Then I realized, ‘Hey, I’m pretty good at painting.’”

Bob Lang was unable to find work in his own profession and had his mind set on opening his own business. The Langs decided on a paint-your-own ceramic studio, assisted by friends in Virginia who ran a similar studio. “I thought of this name Stroke of Creativity because I had a stroke and then I became creative,” Patty Lang said of the business that opened in December 2008. “It’s not just a place to be creative, but a place for people who have hit life’s speed bumps to come together and share experiences, struggles, success and resources, all while enjoying the opportunity to explore their creative side.”

 Brandywine resident Flo Webber and A Stroke of Creativity’s Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio.  PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE GABER Brandywine resident Flo Webber and A Stroke of Creativity’s Patty Lang work together on a ceramics project at the Monroe studio. PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE GABER Brandywine Senior Living is an assisted living residence located at 155 Raymond Road, Princeton. For more information, visit www.brandycare.com or call 732-329- 8888.

A Stroke of Creativity is located at 557 Englishtown Road, Monroe. For more information, call 732-446-4268 or visit www.astrokeofcreativity.com.


North Brunswick police sergeant locates ‘sleeping’ murder suspect

A North Brunswick police sergeant helped locate a man wanted in a double homicide investigation.

On Dec. 11 at approximately 3:15 p.m., the Raritan Borough Police Department responded to 46 First Ave. in Raritan Borough on a report of concerns regarding the welfare of the occupants of the residence. The officers entered the residence and proceeded to a second floor master bedroom, locating the body of a deceased homicide victim, according to a statement released by the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.

Somerset County Prosecutor Geoffrey D. Soriano said that detectives from the Raritan Borough Police Department along with detectives from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Crime Scene Investigations and Forensics Unit responded to conduct the investigation.

Crime scene detectives located the body of an additional homicide victim on the first floor of the residence, he said.

Detectives identified Ramon “Ray” Cadiz, 51, of Raritan Borough, as a suspect. A statewide police broadcast was issued for Cadiz and the vehicle that he was believed to be operating.

Detectives conducting the investigation were assisted in locating Cadiz by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation along with detectives from the New Brunswick Police Department and officers from the North Brunswick Police Department.

Soriano said that just before midnight, North Brunswick Police Sgt. Michael Sauvigne, while on patrol, located the suspect vehicle parked in a dimly lit secluded area on Petunia Drive in the Colony Oaks Apartment Complex of North Brunswick. Sauvigne reportedly maintained a visual surveillance of the suspect vehicle.

Detectives who responded established surveillance of the vehicle and the surrounding area while awaiting a visual confirmation of the wanted subject. At approximately 4 a.m., detectives approached the vehicle and allegedly encountered Cadiz sleeping in a reclined position in the front driver’s seat, Soriano said.

Cadiz was transported to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office where he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He was lodged in the Somerset County Jail with bail set at $2 million.

The cause and manner of the deaths, along with the positive identification of the victims, will be determined following the post mortem examination to be conducted by the New Jersey Regional Medical Examiner’s Office.

Soriano said the investigation is ongoing.

The Arc Middlesex wins at wine event

NORTH BRUNSWICK — No one is ‘whining’ about the results of a fundraiser for The Arc Middlesex County

The “Wine With Us” fun-filled evening of wine, cheese, beer and food was attended by approximately 75 family, friends and coworkers of the Arc on Dec. 5.

The Arc was able to raise $15,360, which will go toward the programs and services that are provided to those with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities within Middlesex County.

Top sponsors include TD Bank, Dom Fanuele Financial Group, Meeker Sharkey & Hurley, Investors Bank, AmeriGroup RealSolutions, Enterprise Fleet Management, Network 21, M.A.S. Construction, SMS Contracting and IPPC Pharmacy.

For more information on volunteering or future events, contact Melissa O’Brien at 732-821-1199 x 134 or mobrien@arc-middlesex.org.

To learn more about The Arc, visit www.arc-middlesex.org.