Police consider neighborhood watch in wake of crimes

WEST LONG BRANCH – In response to burglaries and armed robberies occurring in the borough, police are looking into establishing a neighborhood watch.

Neighborhood Watch is a national crime prevention program that educates citizens about how to identify and report suspicious activity, according to USAonwatch.org.

“There has to be a way … to establish a conduit such as neighborhood watch where we can facilitate people to communicate more regularly with us,” Capt. Lawrence Mihlon said in an interview on June 4.

“We can’t be everywhere at once, so if we are able to train people through a neighborhood watch program in what to look for, how to report it and what to do, it can only help us.”

Mihlon and Detective Michael Paolantonio will attend a class on the prevention program later this week to learn about the program and how to introduce it in the borough.

However, it may take a few months before neighborhood watch is fully implemented, Mihlon said.

“Whenever you do something like this you have to figure out who is going to pay for what and who is going to run it,” he said, adding that it would probably be fully functioning by the fall.

Over the past few months, several daytime burglaries and armed robberies, have occurred in the borough in the areas of Wall Street, Locust Avenue and Monmouth Road.

The latest robbery occurred on May 30 at the BP Gas Station located at the intersection of Broadway and Rte. 36.

According to a press release from Mihlon, West Long Branch police were called to the BP Gas Station at approximately 12:30 a.m. for a report of an armed robbery.

“According to the 54-year-old victim, a suspect approached him at the gas station while he was working in the booth. The suspect showed him a semi-automatic handgun and demanded cash,” the release states.

The suspect fled on foot on Eatontown Boulevard toward Oceanport with an undetermined amount of cash, Mihlon said.

The suspect was described as a slim, dark-skinned black male, approximately 6 feet tall, 180 pounds and was last seen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.

Officers on the scene were assisted by the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Department’s K-9 unit. The suspect had not been located.

This is the second armed robbery that has occurred in the borough within the past two weeks.

An armed robbery/home invasion occurred at theAvalon Bay complex on Monmouth Road on May 21, according to Mihlon.

“According to the victims, four black males armed with various types of hand- guns forced their way into the residence and demanded property and cash,” Mihlon said in a press release on May 22.

All four victims were held at gunpoint, while the suspects took various items and an undetermined amount of cash, he said. None of the victims sustained any physical injury. All four suspects were wearing masks, according to the release.

One individual was described by police as 6-feet 2-3 inches, with braided hair, wearing a cap and armed with a revolver.

A second individual was described as about 5 feet 8 inches, thin build, shaved head and armed with what appeared to be a semi-automatic handgun.

The third individual was short with a heavy build, and the fourth individual was wearing a ski mask, police said.

According to the press release, the suspects possibly fled in a dark-colored Honda Accord with a loud muffler.

Mihlon said that the two robberies are also unrelated.

“After examining the facts and the backgrounds of both robberies, we are fairly certain that one does not have anything to do with the other,” Mihlon said.

Police are advising residents to keep all doors and windows locked and all valuables out of sight.

Residents are encouraged to subscribe to the Code Red telephone alert system and/or Nixle, which sends text message alerts.

Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to call the West Long Branch Police Detective Bureau at 732-229-5000 or the Tip Line at 732-403-3500.

— Nicole Antonucci