West Orange Police have released surveillance footage of a serial burglar who's been terrorizing small commercial business owners and frustrating local police forces for the past three years.
In the video, the bearded burglar -- who is suspected in about 150 commercial break-ins across four New Jersey counties since 2009 -- is seen kicking out the glass door of a Chinese restaurant, crawling through the fractured opening, prying free a cash box and then snaking back out the way he entered.
Fair Lawn Detective Lt. Michael Uttel said the video depicts the same man who's been burglarizing Chinese restaurants, nail salons and pizza shops in Fair Lawn for the past few years. Uttel attributes a number of the commercial jobs committed this March and April, including five businesses hit on April 22, to the serial smash-and-grabber, whom he said never strays from the quick-hit break-in method displayed in the video.
Despite the ample amount of surveillance footage available on the burglar -- whose photos have been distributed to correctional facilities and police departments throughout the region -- Uttel said his identity remains a mystery.
Or as West Orange Detective Ed Diaz told NJ.com: "No one seems to know who he is."
Police describe the burglar as a bearded black man in his mid-30s to early 40s, between 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet tall with a stocky build.
In the recent West Orange video, which captures one of his last known break-ins, the bearded burglar wears a hooded sweatshirt and stocking cap, jeans and sneakers.
Local police departments, including Fair Lawn, are working in concert with the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office on a task force to apprehend the slippery serial burglar, who is also wanted in Millburn, Montclair, Verona and Fairfield, Diaz said.
While he hasn't struck in Fair Lawn since early summer, the bandit's apparent reappearance in Essex County combined with the fact that he's often laid low over the summer only to return when the weather cools down, has local officers anticipating he may return to Fair Lawn soon.
If he does, they'll be prepared.
Uttel hopes that with the force primed and local small businesses apprised of the proper precuations to take against break-ins, it'll only be a matter of time before they bring down the strip mall smash-and-grabber.