With his department short-staffed, Saddle Brook Police Chief Robert Kugler was thankful for an observant resident who led officers to a 21-year-old convicted thief from Lodi charged with breaking into 18 parked vehicles on the north side of town during the early-morning hours.
“With our already depleted force, our patrols are just not able to saturate the streets looking for criminal activity like we used to and which the community deserves,” Kugler told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
Nine officers have retired from the SBPD without replacement the past five years. Excluding an officer on accident injury leave, the force is down to 24 – from what accredited department standards is 34, the chief said.
The department has two detectives, no more school resource officer and “an ever-increasing daily back log of calls for service and follow-up investigations,” said Kugler, who is asking the township’s mayor and council for more manpower.
“Although we may not be the favorite line item in the municipal budget, we are one of the most important for the community’s safety,” he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “Overtime is increasing, minimal manpower requirements are the norm and residents are not getting the level of service they are used to and deserve…. It’s a matter of public safety.”
The arrest that prompted Kugler’s reaction was the arrest of Joston Jesters-Young, 21, after a resident told police he’d spotted him holding a bag that was “leaking coins and other valuables.”
When Patrol Officer Matt Benus spotted him on Saddle River Road, the chief said, Jesters-Young — who adult criminal history extends to just after he turned 18 — dropped the bag and ran.
Officer Douglas Haberman joined Benus and grabbed Jesters-Young, who scuffled with both, leaving Benus with a slight shoulder injury. He left Hackensack University Medical Center wearing a shoulder sling, Kugler said.
The bag, in turned out, contained a load of coins, GPS devices and other electronics, including an iPhone and iPad.
Saddle Brook police received a series of calls Saturday from residents whose cars had been rifled through.
Kugler said most of the vehicles were parked with doors unlocked, making them easy targets for car burglars who walk down area streets, pulling on door handles.
Jesters-Young, whose list of arrests and convictions involve mostly burglary, theft and possession of stolen property, was being held on $5,000 bail in the Bergen County Jail. He is charged this time with obstruction of justice and receiving/possessing stolen property.
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