LINDEN – In the past 10 months, city officials report that there have been nearly a dozen thefts of tires and rims off of luxury vehicles, including four in 2014.
According to Police Chief Jim Schulhafer, there were 11 thefts of tires in the past year, including three incidents reported in January. The most recent theft occurred on March 10 on Robinwood Terrace.
“It’s an issue we have been experiencing citywide,” the chief said. “It started about 10 months ago. In the past 10 months, we have had 11 issues citywide; 11 occasions where we had tires and rims stolen off cars when they were in residents’ driveways.”
According to officials, all 11 of the incidents took place in the middle of the night, all began in the driveway of the owner, and none of them were caught in the act.
“They are restricting themselves to the driveways, which are out of view,” said Schulhafer. “We never received a call from a victim or neighbor that they heard or saw anything. They are operating very quietly.”
Most of the incidents, according to the chief, have taken place in the Sunnyside section of the city, but he did say that the incidents have occurred citywide. In addition, the police believe the crimes are being perpetrated by a local resident.
“We believe it’s somebody local,” said the police chief. “A number of surrounding towns have not had any of these thefts. There have been a few in Cranford, but they have all happened on the Linden border. Not necessarily Linden, but somebody from the area.”
One of the issues with combating these thefts, said the chief, is that there have been no patterns to the thefts other than one common denominator: All of the cars were originally located in driveways.
In two cases, however, cars were actually stolen and moved from the driveways before the tires and rims were stolen.
“The problem that we are having is that there really is no pattern here,” said the chief. “It’s happening sporadically. It’s really spread out. There is no one type of car they are going after, and no particular day of the week.”
And even though these are only property crimes, the mayor and the police chief are very concerned about the image it gives the city, and the costs it is imposing on the property owners.
“It is only a property crime, but this is something we take very seriously,” said the police chief. “These are expensive tires and wheels. A photo of a vehicle on cinder blocks is alarming to a lot of people. And we don’t want it to represent Linden. We will do everything we can to catch the people responsible.”
Police have recently come up with a strategy to combat the rash of luxury tire thefts, but they declined to share details of the plan.
“We put together what I think is a very good plan to combat it,” said Schulhafer. “But I won’t get into specifics.”
The mayor assured LocalSource that the police were handling the situation.
“We are aware of the situation,” said Linden Mayor Rich Gerbounka. “They are jacking up cars and taking expensive wheels. We are addressing the issue. People may not see more police, but the police are out there. I can assure you of that.”
Anyone with information about the thefts can call the police department at 908-474-8500.