Guns, uniform stolen from police chief — but no one warned residents
WATCHUNG — North Plainfield Chief William Parenti has told New Jersey 101.5 he was the victim of a burglary — one in which someone made off with his badge, uniforms and multiple firearms.
But no notice had been put out to the public, warning community members police gear had been stolen — either by Parenti's own North Plainfield Police Department, or by the department in nearby Watchung, where Parenti lives.
Watchung police confirmed to New Jersey 101.5 that a home on Johnson Drive — where Parenti lives — was hit on the morning of Jan. 24, but said they were awaiting an accounting from the homeowner on what was taken. They denied a public records request seeking incident reports about the burglary, citing an ongoing investigation.
Both departments instead put out messages on social media apparently referencing the burglary — but making no mention that a police chief's weapon, badge or uniforms had been taken.
The North Plainfield Department said it was seeking two people in connection to a burglary, and posted two photos to Facebook. Watchung published pictures of the same two people, and said they "may have been soliciting door to door for an unknown company" on the morning of Jan. 24 — though they did ask residents to reference the "burglary investigation" when calling with any information.
Parenti said he hadn't put out information about the thefts because they occurred in another town, and said he "would never hinder another department's investigation." He did, however, answer questions about the incident when reached by New Jersey 101.5.
By contrast, when weapons and uniforms were taken from a stolen State Police patrol vehicle last month, authorities were quick to alert the public — saying the stolen gear may have been used in armed robberies.
Parenti said he was first notified by Watchung police that it was his house that was burglarized, and that one of his cars had been found on fire in Irvington.
The burglars took "many, many valuables," as well as safes, Parenti said. His service weapon was among the firearms taken, he said.
"Everybody thinks police are exempt but we have the same issues that everybody else has to deal with," he said.
Parenti said he had seen references to the burglary online and and social media, and said the items taken were a "grave concern" to him.
"Anytime firearms are taken from a home, police or not, it's a grave concern," he said. "The fact that they also took my badge and some other stuff, hopefully they don't try to impersonate a police officer or sell it to someone who does."
Following the burglary, Parenti he reviewed his home surveillance video, he said. He saw someone break into his home, and saw his car being driven away, he said.
Parenti said nobody else in his family had used the car at that time, and that he was glad that nobody was home or injured during the incident.
He also said he was unsure whether he was targeted by the burglars, or if they just happened to set their sights on his home.
"I would love to know if they catch these guys, 'Why me?' Was I just a random target, I hope? Was I chosen because of my profession? Or was I targeted for some other reason?" he said.
Parenti said he has always told his officers to "try to restore whatever dignity we can to whoever the victim is and use empathy."
"I have a family, I have a wife now and my daughter who are in fear that they're going to come back," he said. "They don't feel comfortable in their own home. All the things that people go through I understand because I'm going through it myself."
More From New Jersey 101.5
Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com