Theft Distresses Residents

On Thursday, December 20, the Jefferson Township police received multiple reports of a person taking gifts intended for waste management personnel. George Scalley, 23, of Lake Hopatcong was arrested for possession of controlled and dangerous substances as well as theft.

According to the police, witnesses reported seeing a gray/silver Acura TL driven by a male who took gifts intended for waste management personnel in the area of Crescent Drive, Como Terrace, Moccasin Trail, and South Cherry Road.

Responding officer James Stokes observed and stopped a vehicle fitting the description on Brady Road. His investigation led to the arrest of Scalley, who was released pending a court date. Stokes told The Jefferson Chronicle that “residents looking out for one another plays a role in preventing theft.”

Alerting Residents

On the afternoon of the arrest, the Jefferson Police Department posted a message on Facebook alerting residents to the theft and requesting the public’s assistance in locating other possible victims. Those who may have witnessed suspicious activity were encouraged to make a report.

The post drew comments and concerns. One resident wondered if there is a “finders keepers” loophole, questioning who technically owns the trash once it is curbside. Another respondent expressed the belief that it is township property.

Officer Joe Kratzel told The Chronicle that trash is not considered township property; it is the resident’s personal property until designated trash collectors pick it up. Although police cannot take an individual’s trash without a search warrant, citizens can do so because there is no law against “dumpster diving” in Jefferson. Regarding the recent theft, the case will come down to the intent of the suspect.

Holiday Precautions

Police suggest handing gifts to the trash collectors. Kratzel noted that this practice is safer and, in his view, more personable.

Another piece of holiday advice from police is to avoid keeping presents in a vehicle, whether hidden or in plain sight. Kratzel recalled a rash of vehicle break-ins that resulted in many people losing their gifts. Because thieves look for easy targets, he advises keeping vehicles locked.

Anyone with information about the current case of theft should contact detective Timothy Hecht by calling 973-697-1300 or emailing tips@jeffersonpolice.com.

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