Neighbors Talk Recent Crime in West Orange

There was an increase in police patrols this weekend announced last Friday by Mayor Robert Parisi.


West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi put more police officers on duty this past weekend and increased patrols as part of his plan to cut down on crime that has affected the township recently.

According to a statement released Friday by Parisi, “We have rearranged some shifts and have scheduled additional officers as well to increase evening patrols along the Main Street corridor as well as the entire Township.”

Parisi said the township is committed to ensuring residents West Orange remains a safe and viable community and we “will take necessary steps to protect our neighborhoods.”

The Watchung Heights Police Substation changed the hours it operates starting Friday. The substation will now be open from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. instead of from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. The changes will remain in place moving forward, said Parisi. 

Concerned neighbors in the Heights section of town also are taking action by holding a neighborhood watch meeting of their own. The meeting was attended by a handful of residents, Council President Victor Cirilo, Councilman Jerry Guarino and West Orange Police Sgt. William Varanelli. 

Michelle Cadeau, who held the meeting in her High Street home, said she called for the meeting after an  on Watchung Avenue last week. 

“It has been very calm here for a longtime,” said Cadeau. “So ... with the (armed robbery) incident on Tuesday, I thought it was important for us ... to have the facts.” 

Varanelli said many of the robberies that happen in town are “crimes of opportunity,” and are committed by “transient” individuals passing through the community. West Orange lends itself to these kinds of crimes, he said, because of the multiple entrances and exits to major highways, and its proximity to the Oranges. 

Varanelli said a lot of crime traditionally happens on the border of West Orange. He hinted West Orange and Orange police are starting to collaborate in a new way, marking a “paradigm shift” in both departments. 

Parisi wrote about this and other new tactics for the police department in a  posted on Patch.

Cirilo added the council is “looking at what’s happening and (asking) how we are going to address this public safety issue.” He said that the administration will come before the council in the coming weeks to discuss funding new police initiatives. 

Varanelli said residents have to remain aware of their surroundings at night. He recommended not using headphones or listening to music, always carrying a cellphone, and not walking alone. “You just have to be hyper-vigilant,” said Varanelli. 

While some residents said they felt afraid of the neighborhood at night, one resident said she does see many police patrolling the area. “It is very rare you don’t see them,” one resident said. 

Davita Waiters, who also attended the meeting, said, “The meeting was very productive. ... We don’t know what (the police) are actually doing behind the scenes unless they tell us.” 

Waiters, who has a 9-year-old son, said the most important issues for her were placing speed bumps on High Street, addressing the lack of lighting and seeing more of a police presence in the area. 

“I don’t feel very safe at all walking around here at night,” said Waiters. “Maybe if it was better lit.

For more information about the Height’s neighborhood watch, check out the Facebook page here


Alan Sanders August 28, 2012 at 12:40 PM
That should be: ......statements about the safety 'issue' or lack thereof.
Steven Serebrenik August 28, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Let's wait and see what happens with these new changes... Thanks Mayor Parisi... Crime up or down is so important to me...If you are the victim of a crime, crime is UP. The fact we are now doing something about it is the only important issue.
Steven Serebrenik August 28, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Sorry..... meant to say, "is NOT so important to me".
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Alan Sanders: There is the old saw about perception becoming reality and that is undoubtedly the case here...at least for some. What we have is not more crime but, the more immediate and far more widespread reporting of the crimes that do occur, due to the proliferation of on-line media outlets. A dozen years ago, the only crime reported was contained in 'The Police Blotter' in "The West Orange Chronicle' which was, and remains, a weekly newspaper. What we also have is the incessant flame fanning of cowardly, anonymous, Internet nitwits who further the notion that the sky is falling when it most definitely is not. There is absolutely no doubt that the overall crime rate has been decreasing, in West Orange, for more than a dozen years though we, like anywhere else, do have periodic spikes in one type of crime or another. For example, if you have no murders in a given year, a single one the following year represents a 100% increase in that particular class of crime. Rather than there being "conflicting and confusing statements," what we have are statements out of context. If Mr. Cirilo has been quoted as saying we have a public safety issue, it is because some portion of the population believes we have one given their growing awareness that, yes, crime does happen. The simple fact of the matter remains that, yes, while crimes do happen such has always been the case; the immediacy of its reporting aside, there is far less of it than there was a dozen years ago.
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 02:21 PM
Steven Serebrenik: I think the fact is that the WOPD has "always been doing something about it" and that these adjustment are as much about addrssing perception as reality. Still, the most progressive thing we can do along Main Street is to bring more people and commerce to it, which is precisely what redevelopment is designed to do.
Tom G. August 28, 2012 at 02:40 PM
One other thing to consider is that crime always has a tendency to increase during the hot summer months. I see the most recent incidents as more of a spike than a trend, as we will likely see these types of incidents drop off during the fall and winter as fewer people are out and about.
Alan Sanders August 28, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Gary, 'Your' perception becomes 'your' reality, whether it is or is not reality. By 'your' I don't mean you personally, only, I mean anybody. You are saying that that's the case. When crime hits close to home as Steven Serebrenik points out, it becomes your reality, and it 'is' more than your perception, it's your reality. This may be what's happening on the W.O./O. border more than elsewhere in town, but it also happens too often away from this border for reasons already mentioned above. Maybe we are seeing a 'periodic spike', time will tell. I understand your point when you say that going from zero to one is a 100% increase but...... small technical point: it's an infinite or indeterminate percent increase (or as they say in school these days: 'no answer'. From 1 to 2, 2 to 4 etc. is 100%. Do the math, but yes we are more aware these days because of easier access to both true and false information. Apparently, the town fathers are also impacted by perceptions that whatever is happening, spike or not, requires a response beyond saying you're worrying about a mirage. I'm glad to see it.
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 02:55 PM
Tom G.: Historical perspective helps as well for as bucolic as West Orange is (and it was even more so in the past) we have not escaped some rather horrific crimes in our history. Joe Fagan wrote about one early crime concerning a farmer (living in the vicinity of the present day Essex House) being murdered by his wife's lover. In 1959, Longie Zwillman was found hanging in his basement on Beverly Road, the victim of mob vengeance or suicide depending on which theory one prefers. Thirty-five years ago, a guy living adjacent to St. Joseph's Church got up one morning and shot and killed both his parents. He then climbed to the attic with an arsenal of hunting rifles and ammunition and kept police at bay for hours before they stormed the house. The late Deputy Chief Len DeMaio was awarded a Medal of Valor for leading the assault that resulted in the man's capture. In the early nineties, a handyman killed a homeowner along Pleasant Valley Way; a case solved by Greg Boyle when interviewing the suspect's wife he noticed her wearing a ring stolen from the home. Perhaps ten years ago, a young father tortured and killed his infant child up on Chestnut Road. The single salient point of all of these incidents is that none occurred along our eastern border, which most assume is the root of all evil. Crime can and does happen anywhere.
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 03:33 PM
Alan Sanders: All your points are understood...and I applaud the Township's being proactive, as I know it always has been. Still, nothing will help combat both the perception and reality (of crime) along our eastern border more than redeveloping Main Street and bringing more people and commerce to it.
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 03:40 PM
^ Nonsense.
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 03:40 PM
^More nonsense.
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 03:41 PM
^ And even more nonsense.
Michelle Cadeau August 28, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Did you read that they are enforcing the 'boarder patrol'?
Michelle Cadeau August 28, 2012 at 05:12 PM
For the record, there was one person at the meeting (out of 11) that didn't feel safe. Maybe that is that persons background doing that or something else? When I came here from Brooklyn I didn't feel safe at first. Now I do. I live in the heights and feel safe every day. BUT I will still listen to the PD's advice which really is just common sense. Crime of opportunity is just that and can happen anywhere.
Michelle Cadeau August 28, 2012 at 05:14 PM
I think what should be taken from this article more so than anything else, is the fact that we residents stand up, get educated, help each other, reach out and stand up for our neighborhood and try to keep it safe. And we have done/ are doing a great job with that!
S. Helbig August 28, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Unfortunately, money is not available for additional police and firemen. Hard choices are necessary. It would be nice to have everything we want, but we can't. 60% of municipal taxes go to the Board of Education even though that money is desperately needed for police officers and firefighters. I would rather have police and firemen than teachers. The mayor and council have a tendency to wash their hands of that 60% of the taxes claiming it is, as a matter of law, in the purview of the Board of Education. The washing of hands about where 60% of municipal taxes go is a luxury that we can no longer afford, law or no law. The correct approach is to have as many police and firefighters as we need even if less than 60% our taxes goes to the Board of Education. We have to make hard choices and one of those hard choices is to spend only the amount WHICH WE CAN AFFORD ON EDUCATION and say, "Do what you can with it because there is no more. That's it. This is hard times. We are making do. You must make do also."
badbul August 28, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Then you will have even more ill literate children running around. What the mayor should do is start a larger auxiliary police force. Look at the Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. The Jewish people have started there own auxiliary force backed by the NYPD. The Jewish neighborhoods are the safest in NY city. If WO could adopt a similar program, crime would drop 50% because anyone with criminal contempt would just move on to an easier target (a different town).
Gary Englert August 28, 2012 at 09:08 PM
badbul: West Orange has an auxiliary police force and, if you'd like to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk, I'm sure they'd welcome you with open arms...assuming you can pass the requisite background check and training requirements.
john anthony prignano August 28, 2012 at 10:54 PM
S.Helbig You're right Many years ago, City Hall eliminated longevity pay for new employees { except cops and firemen } The School Board never has. Jack Sayers,our Business Administrator,makes $50k less than the School Board B.A., who has less service than Mr. Sayers. 20% of the professional staff at WOHS teach a total of zero classes.The Head of the Guidance Department was also a professor at Kean University,but the WOHS site shows he taught zero classes at WOHS.The State report card shows a median salary for WOHS teachers of $82,000 for 8 years of service.Livingston High teachers earn a median salary of $80,000 for 9 years of service - $2k less for 1 more year of service than WO..Town Hall is "doing more with less".WOHS provides 14 days LESS yearly instructional time than the State average. In other words,they're doing less with more.Years ago, the State made many cost saving recommendations to the School Board. Most, if not all of these recommendations, were based on the fact that the WO School Board was among the most generous in the State - not in our GH factor group, but overall . I don't think the School Board implemented even one of those recommendations. But the town is in an inter- local agreement with the School Board - obviating Initiative and Referendum on school construction projects. .So when you're jogging on the new track, thank the Board....and the town. You're right, S.Helbig . Let's sing; Two different worlds, we live in two different worlds..... . .
davita waiters August 29, 2012 at 04:08 AM
One of the questions presented at Michelle's "Do you feel safe in your neighborhood?" I am one person and I speak for myself.  I do not feel safe outdoors at night in my own neighborhood. At the meeting (from what I saw) there were 5 people from our block (High St), 1 person from two blocks over, 2 councilmen (not sure where they live in WO), an officer and the reporter from the Patch.  There was more than one person at the meeting that stated they did not feel safe AT NIGHT.  Maybe I was the only one questioned after the meeting in my home by the Patch. I  also stated that if the streets were better lit I would feel safer at night.  I'm not sure if the comments are directed towards me or what the was meant by "Not sure if that's their background to do that or something else".  It's not my character or (to use the quoted term) "background" to cause a commotion however it is in my character to speak my mind.  Maybe crime is down overall in WO, I would like to see the stats broken down by sections of WO.  I wonder if crime is up in our neighborhood and way down in other parts of WO (averaging out to lower than past years). I will read further to find that information. I live at the very end of High St near Montclair. I don't feel safe outdoors in my own neighborhood AT NIGHT.  My family and I have been in our home for over 16 years. Now at night I do not get out of my car until I have my house keys in my hand. I just don't want to live that way. Just my opinion.
Steven Serebrenik August 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM
Dear Davita, I'm sorry for the way you are currently living...in fear. It is no way to live fo sure. Where I grew and lived for many years, I too lived in fear. It's nothing short of awful. An awful way to live. Your points are more than well taken. There is more crime in certain areas than others...PERIOD. When people say, "Crime can happen anywhere", it always sounds like an excuse to say that "they" are not worried about about others because "Crime can happen anywhere". Well, to those who believe that people are so stupid that they don't know that crime can appear anywhere, why don't you have compassion for those who live in "higher" crime areas. Davita...Please don't ever say...'It's JUST my opinion". It's just as important as anyone else's opinion. God Bless
Michelle Cadeau August 29, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Davita, I didn't reference you. As far as I can remember you didn't say that you were afraid during the meeting. One person did out of the people being there. And yes crime is down here in the height's as well. I am sorry you feel unsafe. i don't feel more unsafe here than if I walk in a different neighborhood in WO at night. I am sorry you don't.
Alan Sanders August 29, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Gary Anglert writes: The single salient point of all of these incidents is that none occurred along our eastern border, which most assume is the root of all evil. Crime can and does happen anywhere. The crimes cited: a mob killing, family murder, handyman kills aged couple, are very different types than the typical crimes covered by the statistics. They are anomalies. Alan Saunders -:)
Gary Englert August 29, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Alan Sanders: Had to pay me back for all those "Saunders" typos, huh? :-) The Chestnut Street liquor store shooting (essentially an execution; there was no robbery), Garcia's pulling a gun to shoot a bouncer (trying to break up a fist fight) and the two armed robberies of gas stations (because of where they occurred; on Prospect Avenue and Pleasant Valley Way) are as much anomalies as any crime we are simply unaccustomed to seeing regularly. Of the aforementioned, showing a gun (without discharging it) in the commission of a robbery is far more the rule than exception, which doesn't make it any less terrifying the person it's being pointed at.
Alan Sanders August 29, 2012 at 03:09 PM
I hesitate to ask this question because the bouncer's death was such a tragic occurrence but I was wondering, was interceding in the parking lot dispute within his job description or was he 'free-lancing' and using testosterone driven bad judgement?
Gary Englert August 29, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Alan Sanders: A good question, actually, and I don't know if there is anything memorialized in law (anywhere) concerning what a "bouncer" can or can't do but, common sense tells me their "duties" should be confined to private property. Some common sense information can be gleaned here: http://www.crimedoctor.com/nightclub1.htm I think there are plenty of people who are inclined to intercede to stop a fight or assault...even to make a "citizen's arrest" if called for...and one can only hope they have testosterone, good judgment and martial training equal to the task. Of the three, the last is probably hardest to come by and acquitting yourself well in a schoolyard fight as an 8 year old really doesn't qualify. What Jacques Nelson witnessed that motivated him to act (in the parking lot to the rear of the bar) is open to debate, as he's no longer with us to share his perspective.
Tom G. August 29, 2012 at 04:18 PM
In case anyone is keeping score, there was another robbery last night near West Orange Self Storage. 3 subjects, no weapons. They were quickly apprehended by Orange PD in the area near Mitchell St. and turned over to WOPD. Don't know if/when this will make it to Patch.
Local Mom September 05, 2012 at 01:50 PM
There was one in the Kmart parking lot yesterday at 3 pm - What the heck is going on?
Steven Serebrenik September 06, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Wow....Broad daylight... Scary
Sylvia October 18, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Another one yesterday! My neighbor house got broken into during the day and they got out with all jewlery and $900 in cash!!!! Wellington Ave is a busy street, you would think that would bother the criminals a bit??? What a shame! I really feel for my neighbor...... I think is time for another meeting with the mayor and the police force in Hazel Ave Elementary school for our neighborhood, so we can all brainstorm ideas and talk about what to do to help the the Mayor and the Police!


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