Residents of a normally-quiet Toms River street say they have been plagued by nonstop acts of vandalism committed by a neighbor, with police officials saying the state’s new bail reform law has resulted in the perpetrator being let of jail.
Nick Demarco, a resident of the street, located off Old Freehold Road near Toms River High School North, told township council members last week that on one occasion last week, eight tires were slashed in a single night, five houses were vandalized, a Verizon FiOS line was slashed and numerous vehicle taillights were busted in.
Police, on numerous occasions, have arrested and charged a man from the neighborhood who they say suffers from a mental illness. His name was not divulged publicly.
“We all fear for our safety,” said Demarco, describing how the man walks up and down the street with an ax handle, occasionally pausing to stop at front lawns and stare at homes.
He said since June 51 tires have been slashed, including 40 just in the past couple of weeks.
“We are frustrated,” said Police Chief Mitch Little, who was at the meeting. “We’re trying to do everything we can, but we have a little bit of a broken system.”
Little said the state’s new bail reform law, under which some offenders can be released without posting any monetary bail if they are considered nonviolent, hasn’t helped the matter.
“Before Jan. 1, we would have been able to arrest him and keep him in jail,” said Little. “With bail reform, he is released. He was arrested on Friday and was back out on Saturday. We don’t know what’s going to happen when he is released again.”
Little said he would post extra patrols near the street and set up surveillance in order to stop a future incident.
As for the suspect: “They are taking extra steps to make sure he gets the help he needs,” Little said.