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Bergen County victim: How a neighborhood burglar changed our world

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

A BURGLARY VICTIM WRITES: After three comfortable decades in our Bergen County home, any sense of safety was gone the instant my partner found the broken glass on our kitchen floor after taking our son to school.

It vanished quicker than what police say likely amounted to fewer than 10 minutes for the heroin-addicted son of a neighbor to break in and swipe a cell phone, two jewelry boxes full of irreplaceable memories and a few Oxycodone pills tucked away in the nightstand that had been prescribed following recent oral surgery.

Our two weeks of terror began when the culprit’s father sold his house.

It turns out the thief has a history of being in and out of jail for stealing to feed his illicit drug use, according to police and neighbors. Our mistake was feeling badly for him when he asked to use our phone.

Having known him since his childhood, my partner thought it harmless enough to help. But that first “my cell phone is dead, can I borrow the phone?’’ request from this mid-20s manipulator quickly led to a second request, then a third, and so on.

It got to the point that he seemed to appear from nowhere at our kitchen door, lurking around, then asking to use the phone.

He became so brazen and entitled that I awoke from a nap after initially ignoring the doorbell one Saturday, sleepily trudged downstairs to the kitchen and found him there.

“Dude, this is my home,” I told him. “You cannot just let yourself in or I will call the police.’’

“I’m sorry,” he said. “It will never happen again.’’

Until the next time.

Days later, my 10-speed bicycle went missing from the backyard. Soon after, he was on the back porch.

“Can I use the phone? My girlfriend is coming to pick me up. It’s my last night in the house.’’

As I opened the door, I angrily asked whether he took my bike. Then I noticed that he could barely stand. He was so high that I was afraid he’d turn violent. After mumbling something incoherent, he left.

Later that night, he was back again. I had just arrived home from carpool duty with my daughter when he began ringing the doorbell incessantly and pounding on the door.

I hustled my daughter upstairs, hoping she wouldn’t be afraid — but knowing that she, too, was terrified.

The police arrived in minutes, but he was gone.

We described our string of encounters with the junkie for the officers, who said they already were “aware” of him. They told us they would continue to watch his house, which was scheduled to be sold and bolted in a few days.

It wasn’t soon enough for us.

By 8:30 the next morning, he’d broken in.

The police were awesome. They arrived quickly, searched each room to be sure the thief wasn’t lurking around and waited patiently for him. They knew that catching him with our goods in-hand was the best way to make a case.

Sure enough, the dope turned on our cellphone and police traced him – right to his father’s house.

When the cab the junkie thief called arrived, police grabbed him. He was carrying the phone and our jewelry.

He confessed, saying it was all a “misunderstanding.’’

In the end, the only misunderstanding was ours.

By believing that we could help a young man down on his luck, we surrendered our wariness about being too trusting. We were thrilled to have recovered our personal treasures – the watch once worn by my mom, who died when I was 9; my great-grandmother’s engagement ring and all the jewelry lovingly exchanged throughout our 19 years together.

But this guy took something that may never be restored — a sense of security within the one place we should feel safest, our home.

Sure, new locks and alarms and windowless doors can be installed.

But I’m not sure the sheer distrust of a fellow human being ever will.

EDITOR’S NOTE: CLIFFVIEW PILOT is withholding the writer’s identity for obvious reasons.

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