Day: November 7, 2022

Governor Murphy Announces Comprehensive Plan to Combat Auto Theft in New Jersey

Proposed Legislation and Administrative Action Will Work Together to Decrease Auto Theft Across the State

November 7, 2022

EWING TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)–Governor Phil Murphy, alongside Senate President Nick Scutari and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, today announced his support for a series of legislative proposals and administrative actions to combat auto theft in New Jersey. Today’s announcement builds upon steps taken earlier this year, which have already proven to have an impact. Auto thefts in September of this year were down 14 percent from September of last year. And in October, auto thefts were down 12 percent from October of last year.

“I am grateful for the collaborative work that has been done across government in partnership with law enforcement at the state and local levels to combat crime in our state,” said Governor Murphy. “Today’s steps, which include increasing penalties for persistent auto theft offenders and criminalizing certain conduct related to auto theft tools and catalytic converters, will strengthen this administration’s efforts to reverse the uptick in vehicle theft we have witnessed over the past few years. However, we also ask that our residents take additional measures to protect themselves from auto theft. If you cannot park your car in a closed and locked garage, make sure that your vehicle is locked and that the key fob is with you.”

The Governor announced his support for a series of legislative measures to combat auto theft. Some versions of these measures have already been introduced, and the Governor looks forward to working with legislative leadership and the sponsors to advance these reforms through the legislative process. The Governor proposed:

  1. Establishing a persistent auto theft offender statute, which would give state and local prosecutors the option to seek more serious criminal consequences for those who have been repeatedly found guilty of stealing cars.
  2. Making possession and distribution of certain auto theft tools a crime.
  3. Imposing criminal penalties for the failure to comply with certain guidelines in the sale and purchase of catalytic converters.
  4. Investing in enhanced pretrial services, which will reduce the risk from individuals who are awaiting trial. This will include:
  5. Pretrial monitoring by law enforcement.
  6. Expansion of the use of house arrest paired with location monitoring.
  7. Providing additional resources related to substance abuse, mental health, and housing insecurity.

The Governor also announced that the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) will start working to add a check box to vehicle registration paperwork allowing residents to “opt in” to a program that automatically permits law enforcement to track participating registered vehicles if a vehicle is ever stolen. Additionally, MVC will focus on messaging the importance to new drivers of safely handling key fobs by not leaving them inside the car or stored in their home too close to the car.

“The Murphy Administration continues to take a comprehensive approach to keeping New Jersey residents safe. Particularly when it comes to combating the rise in auto thefts, we are deploying every tool possible–creative legislation, technological investments, and traditional enforcement. Public safety will always be our top priority,” said New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin.

“Auto theft not only victimizes the owner of the vehicle, but it can also victimize the whole community. Stolen vehicles are often used in the commission of crimes and can be found driving recklessly on our roadways creating a dangerous environment for everyone,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The support Governor Murphy has provided with the additional resources have proven to be pivotal in our effort to combat this national issue. Those resources added with the new legislative and administrative steps shows this state’s commitment to supporting not only law enforcement but it’s commitment to the safety of all New Jersey residents.”

“I can only commend the all-hands-on-deck approach that Governor Murphy has taken to combat the rise in auto thefts in New Jersey,” said Motor Vehicle Commission Acting Chief Administrator Latrecia Littles-Floyd. “The initiatives announced today will give law enforcement a new tool to help track down stolen vehicles and boost public awareness about the importance of securing key fobs. Working closely with our partners in law enforcement, we will continue to maximize our efforts at MVC to help reduce vehicle thefts.”

“The alarming increase in auto thefts threatens the property and the safety of New Jersey residents in their communities,” said Senate President Scutari. “These crimes are especially disturbing because they’re so close to home. Criminals are stealing cars right out of people’s driveways and garages. It’s crucial we take additional steps to deter car thieves and support police departments throughout the state.” 

“Car thefts are plaguing communities across our state,” said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin. “We must protect public safety and ensure justice is delivered for the sake of all New Jersey families and our law enforcement. Every community deserves peace of mind. As we step up our efforts to mitigate, disincentivize and dismantle car theft rings, I applaud the ongoing response of the Attorney General and I remind folks to please stay vigilant.”

“In response to a recent increase in automobile thefts across the state, I am proud to stand with Governor Murphy in taking swift and comprehensive action to combat this issue,” said Senator Linda Greenstein. “As Chairwoman of the Law and Public Safety Committee, safeguarding our residents’ property and upholding community safety and security standards, is of the utmost importance.”

“With support from Governor Murphy, Attorney General Platkin, Speaker Coughlin, Senate President Scutari and law enforcement agencies, the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee will be holding a public hearing to discuss combatting auto theft. We plan to isolate the problem, hear from our community and stakeholders to find solutions to address this issue. It is our responsibility in the legislature to ensure our communities are safe from crime, and rest easy knowing their representatives are working to solve the problem of automotive theft,” said Assemblyman Bill Spearman.

Earlier this year, Governor Murphy announced a $10 million investment in automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology to reduce violent crime and auto theft in New Jersey through the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) State Fiscal Recovery Fund. 

In addition, Attorney General Platkin announced in March that additional resources would be allocated to grow the Auto Theft Task Force (ATTF). Since then, both the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) and the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) have added additional detectives and prosecutors to the ATTF. $125,000 in federal Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) funds were also immediately provided to bolster the resources and capabilities of the ATTF, including law enforcement personnel and equipment purchases.

Attorney General Platkin has also revised the police pursuit policy to explicitly permit the pursuit of stolen cars, among other efforts.

Waretown, NJ Man Sentenced To Year In Prison For Fake Federal ID Badges And Short-Barreled Rifle With Silencer

November 7, 2022

TRENTON, N.J. – An Ocean County, New Jersey, man was sentenced today to 12 months and one day in prison for unlawfully possessing a privately manufactured short barrel rifle, a silencer, and five imitation badges of various federal agencies, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Jeffrey Backlund, 57, of Waretown, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan to an information charging him with unlawfully possessing firearms that were not registered in the National Firearms Register and Transfer Record, and unlawful possession of an official badge or identification card. Judge Sheridan imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Sept. 6, 2020, after investigating a domestic disturbance, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Backlund’s residence and located a number of firearms and imitation federal identification badges. They found one short-barreled, AR-style, .223 caliber rifle bearing no serial number and no branding. Attached to the rifle, they found a tan metal cylindrical device that law enforcement determined to be a silencer. Given the physical characteristics of the rifle and silencer, Backlund was required to, but did not, register these items in the National Firearms Register and Transfer Record pursuant to the National Firearms Act.

Law enforcement officers also located two bi-fold wallets containing FBI Special Agent identification credentials bearing Backlund’s picture and personal information, a United States Marshals Service badge, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent badge, and a Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent badge. All badges and identifications were imitation and Backlund did not have the authority to possess any of them.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Sheridan sentenced Backlund to three years of supervised release and fined him $5,000.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark; special agents of the ATF Newark Field Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryan R. Miller; special agents of the DEA, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Susan A. Gibson in Newark; members of the U.S. Marshals Service, under the direction of Marshal Juan Mattos Jr.; detectives with the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office, under the direction of Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer, and officers of the Ocean Township Police Department, under the direction of Chief Michal J. Rogalski, with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Martha K. Nye of the Criminal Division in Trenton.


Defense counsel: Keith Oliver Esq., Middletown, New Jersey

Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad Launches Volunteer Recruitment Campaign

November 7, 2022

PRINCETON, NJ (MERCER)– Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (PFARS) has launched a full-scale volunteer recruiting effort, seeking candidates from Princeton and surrounding communities to join its training programs. Applications are currently being accepted for spring, summer and fall 2023 recruit classes. Interested candidates are invited to attend a virtual information session on Monday, Nov. 21 at 6:00 p.m.

“Many residents don’t realize that PFARS is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that is independent of the Municipality of Princeton and not supported by taxpayers. Funding for our operations depends on contributions made by individuals, corporations, and foundations to fulfill our mission to save lives, relieve the suffering of the sick and injured, and promote safety,” said PFARS Chief Matthew Stiff.

The need for emergency services volunteers across the country has significantly increased throughout the pandemic.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s 2019 population survey data measuring civic engagement and volunteering, New Jersey ranks 45th among U.S. states, with a volunteer rate of just 26.1 percent. According to the data, 1,863,865 volunteers contribute 162.7 million hours of service worth an estimated $3.9 billion to the state. (Source:

“When I joined the squad in 2012 as a high school junior, I saw it as a chance to learn more about the medical field as a possible career path,” said Allie Persky, PFARS Vice President and EMT Rescue Member. “Volunteering throughout high school, college, and now my work as a healthcare consultant, brings me an incredible sense of purpose. For many of us, the big draw is the close personal friendships we’re able to cultivate within the organization. I also enjoy being able to get out and give back to the community that I grew up in, having meaningful daily interactions with people that may just need a comforting conversation when something is out of the ordinary.”

PFARS responded to more than 2,500 calls in 2021 including nearly 200 mutual aid calls to many surrounding municipalities. The organization maintains an average in-town response time of 6 minutes and 11 seconds from dispatch to on-scene arrival – well below the industry standard 9-minute response time.

 “At the onset of the pandemic, our recruiting program was temporarily put on hold along with so many other organizations’,” said Stiff. “Currently, we have 62 volunteers working side-by-side with eight career staff and a full-time chief to deliver the highest quality of care possible to Princeton residents and visitors. We take great pride in maintaining top standards, which is only possible with a strong volunteer base.”

PFARS career and volunteer staff members are highly-trained Emergency Medical Technicians prepared to deliver care in a wide variety of life-threatening situations, including childbirth, allergic reactions, respiratory emergencies, traumatic injuries, and cardiac arrest. EMTs engage in continuing education classes and regular training sessions to ensure they are ready to serve our community with the highest quality care possible. Crews are scheduled in the station 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with off-duty members available by pager to respond to additional or large-scale incidents.

“Our volunteer members have a deep connection with the Princeton community,” said Stiff. “The service they provide directly impacts people daily, which cultivates an incredible sense of purpose. Our volunteers enjoy a sense of accomplishment and pride in the work they do.”

Asbury Park Man Convicted Of Sex Crimes Against Two Juveniles

November 7, 2022

FREEHOLD – A Monmouth County Jury has returned guilty verdicts against an Asbury Park man who sexually abused two juvenile siblings on multiple occasions over the course of several years, Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Monday.

Following a weeklong trial before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Jill G. O’Malley, 35-year-old Walter Orlando Perez-Ramos was convicted Friday on two counts of second-degree Sexual Assault, two counts of third-degree Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and a single count of fourth-degree Criminal Sexual Contact.

On Monday, May 3, 2021, members of the Asbury Park Police Department first received information regarding the abuse of the two victims, then ages 16 and 17.

An investigation by members of the MCPO Special Victims Bureau and the Asbury Park Police Department quickly determined that the abuse had involved dozens of incidents taking place on various dates from May 2015 through May 2020, each involving inappropriate touching. Perez-Ramos was arrested later in May 2021 and remained in custody at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) until the trial, at which both victims testified. MCPO Special Victims Bureau Director and Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Zanzuccki handled the prosecution, while Perez-Ramos was represented by George J. Mardinly, Esq.

“This family repeatedly welcomed the defendant into their home as a trusted friend, and he repaid that trust with betrayal – by robbing the two victims of what should have been a normal, happy, fruitful adolescence,” Acting Prosecutor Santiago said. “They can never get those years back, but thanks to this verdict, we can at least ensure that justice is served and their healing process can begin.”  

Sentencing has been scheduled for Friday, March 31, 2023, at which time Perez-Ramos will face a term of up to 21 years and six months in state prison, along with registration as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and Parole Supervision for Life.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton Flies Nearly 300 Flags for Heroes During Pre-Veterans Day Celebration with the Rotary Club of Robbinsville Hamilton  

November 7, 2022

HAMILTON TOWNSHIP, NJ (MERCER)– Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Hamilton, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, and the Rotary Club of Robbinsville Hamilton hosted a pre-Veterans Day community celebration of Flags for Heroes on Saturday, Nov. 5 at RWJUH Hamilton.

Approximately 300 full-sized American flags raised by 80+ volunteers affixed with personal messages to local heroes have been placed on the grounds of the hospital and will continue to fly through Nov. 18. Flag sponsorships were purchased by area residents and businesses through the Rotary Club of Robbinsville Hamilton to honor heroes in their lives, including members of the military, family members, doctors, nurses, teachers and other COVID-19 essential workers.

“We’re grateful to continue our partnership with the Rotary Club of Robbinsville Hamilton on such a powerful display to once again recognize our local heroes ahead of Veterans Day. I would like to thank the members of the community who make this event possible through their flag sponsorships,” said Richard Freeman, President and Chief Executive Officer, RWJUH Hamilton. “Last year we expanded our display to not only honor our local military veterans for their service but also some of our own healthcare heroes and essential workers for their dedication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are honored to continue to recognize the heroes that make a difference in our community.”

“We are proud to continue a tradition that brings our town together and allows people to commemorate and acknowledge someone that has had a profound impact on their lives,” said Kalpana Patel, president of the Rotary Club of Robbinsville Hamilton. “Not only does the display help honor our local heroes, but it allows us to continue to assist those in need through funds raised.”  

The public ceremony included a short program with guest speakers and community leaders, including Robbinsville Mayor David Fried and Hamilton Township Council Member Richard (Rick) Tighe. Proceeds from flag sponsorships will be provided to the Mercer County Military Action Council (MCMAC) to help service members travel home for the holidays, other non-profit organizations through the Rotary Club of Robbinsville Hamilton Foundation, as well as help fund programming at RWJUH Hamilton.

For more information on RWJUH Hamilton visit:

Left to right: Regina Arcuri, Mercer County Military Action Council; Linda Greenstein, Senator, New Jersey State Legislature; Kalpana Patel, President, Robbinsville Hamilton Rotary Club; Richard Tighe, Council Member, Hamilton Township; Nina Melker, Chair, RWJUH Hamilton Board of Directors; Richard Freeman, President & CEO, RWJUH Hamilton. Photo provided by RWJUH

Law Enforcement Investigates Death Of 18-Year-Old

November 7, 2022

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–East Windsor Police report, on Monday November 7, 2022, at approximately 9:09 a.m., members of the East Windsor Police Department and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office responded to the Bear Brook, located off of Oak Creek Road, for a report of an unattended death. Investigators located the body of Julia McDaid, 18, of East Windsor. The East Windsor Police Department and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office are actively investigating the incident, however preliminary investigation indicates no signs of foul play.

Port Jefferson, NY, Woman Killed On NJ Turnpike As Wheel Crashes Though Windshield

November 7, 2022

EAST WINDSOR, NJ (MERCER)–Sgt. Philip Curry of the New Jersey State Police Public Information Unit told the crash occurred at 4:53 p.m. on the NJ Turnpike northbound on the inner roadway at MP 67.6 in East Windsor, Mercer County.  Preliminary investigation revealed that an Acura MDX was traveling south on the NJTPK on the inner roadway when the left front wheel became separated from the vehicle.  The wheel then traveled over the center divider and entered the northbound inner roadway.  The wheel then impacted the front windshield of a northbound traveling Acura RDX.  The impact caused fatal injuries to the front seat passenger of the RDX, Susan Dagrosa, 75, of Port Jefferson, NY.  The driver of the RDX was not injured. The crash remains under investigation.

Yesterday’s story here: