June 13, 2012

Arrest Made in Connection With Local Burglaries Following Collaborative Effort by Area Police

A man who may be connected to a series of recent burglaries in Princeton and surrounding communities has been arrested by the New Brunswick Police. Walter Lee Hastings, 50, was taken into custody Friday, June 8 at a Howard Johnson Express hotel on Route 1 in New Brunswick, and is being held in the Middlesex County Correctional Facility.

The thefts, some as recent as last week, took place at night in homes and cars where a door or window was unlocked. Mr. Hastings is being charged in connection with five burglaries that took place in South Brunswick, Piscataway, and New Brunswick over the past three months. Whether he stole from homes in Princeton Borough and Township remains under investigation, but authorities regard him as a possible suspect.

“I can’t officially say we’re going to charge him with anything, but we are reviewing the case load to see if we can tie him in and will certainly charge him accordingly if we can,” said Sergeant Mike Cifelli of the Princeton Township Police on Monday. “Over the next week we will most certainly be reviewing this.”

The area of Route 27 near Dodds Lane has been the scene of several burglaries since just before last Christmas. “Generally, entry was done through an open door,” Mr. Cifelli said. “We have seen very few incidents of forced entry.”

The arrest of Mr. Hastings came after a collaborative effort by several police departments in Mercer and Middlesex counties, and the Mercer and Middlesex County Prosecutors’ offices. This inter-county task force included Princeton Township and Borough, Franklin Township, New Brunswick and South Brunswick, Mr. Cifelli said.

“Everybody compared notes, and we were able to develop a suspect. There was enough commonality that we were able to come to the conclusion that it was the same person or group of persons doing this,” he added. “We were seeing a pattern.”

Police have urged residents in recent months to lock doors and windows, since entry in many of the home burglaries appears to have been gained through sliding glass doors. The most recently reported local burglaries took place in the 700 and 900 blocks of Princeton-Kingston Road. Both involved jewelry; one also included electronics and cash.

“While we can’t tie this suspect to either case, the time frame in which they occurred was before the arrest, so it is indeed possible that he could have been involved,” Mr. Cifelli said. “We’ll have more information as the investigation continues.”