Neighbors Saw Alleged Burglar For Days Before Arrest
Richard Malson was allegedly walking the neighborhood with a backpack the night before the arrest, neighbors said.
A Benedict Drive resident saw a man who turned out to be one of two people arrested in a string of burglaries in the Lake Hopatcong section of town the day before he was apprehended.
Lynn Brietner was following her normal nightly routine, letting her dogs out before bed last Wednesday at about 11 p.m.
“I saw a guy walking down the street when I went outside to tell the dogs to be quiet,” Brietner said. “I didn’t really think anything of it, but I did notice he was carrying a backpack, and I thought that was a little odd.”
The following day, Brietner saw several police cars at the home of her neighbor across the street.
“I asked him what was going on, and he told me he’d been robbed,” she said. “I came outside and got to talking to the cops. Another neighbor had also seen the same person. I told the cops I saw someone walking the night before, and as I was describing him, it became apparent that I was talking about the same person that the other neighbor had described.”
It turned out that Brietner and several other neighbors had seen the man fishing from docks of different houses for about a week or two before he was arrested.
“I really didn’t think anything of it,” Brietner said. “I thought it was a little strange that he would be out fishing in the rain, but some people who are avid fishermen do that, so I just sort of dismissed it.”
It was the descriptions Breitner and her neighbors provided that helped lead police to Richard Malson, who was arrested last week for allegedly committing nearly 70 burglaries in town. A second man was then charged on Friday in connection to the crimes.
One of the best ways people can help protect themselves and each other, according to Jefferson Township Police Capt. Eric Wilsusen, is to take notice of details like people who aren’t immediately recognizable.
“We’ve heard people say to us many times that they’ve seen someone around that they didn’t know but they didn’t think anything of it, or they didn’t want to bother the police. They should bother us. That’s what we’re here for,” Wilsusen said.
He also discussed the possibility of neighborhood watch groups.
“We are here to help neighborhoods start these groups, and we will work with a representative, telling that person when we have information so he or she can spread it to the rest of the group,” he said.
But he also suggested people do their own informal neighborhood watch groups, especially with the popularity of social media.
Wilsusen’s other suggestion was for people to be aware of what they are doing.
“We don’t often have homes broken into the way we have in these instances,” he said. “A majority of our break-ins are to cars that are left unlocked. It’s important to remember to lock your car and your home as well.”
That message is one Breitner has taken to heart.
“I haven’t changed anything about my routine,” she said. “But I am more cognizant that if I run to the store for a few minutes, I lock my doors.
“I’ve lived in this neighborhood since 1998, and I feel safe here,” she continued. “This is the first time since I’ve been here that something like this has happened, and it seems the police have caught the people who did it."