HOPATCONG, N.J. — Police say they are being forced to repeatedly release a suspected burglar that’s allegedly broken into homes in Bergen, Passaic, Morris and Sussex counties.
They say it’s because of New Jersey’s bail reform law, which went into effect on January 1, 2017.
Hopatcong Police put out a warning on Facebook, stating that anyone who sees Jason Major, 34, of Hopatcong should call 911.
“Six to ten officers were used to trail this guy. 22-hours, they followed him, put him in jail and later that day he’s out just to commit more crime,” said Hopatcong Police Lt. Thomas Kmetz.
Investigators arrested Major on Friday night and he spent the night in jail. At his point, he was suspected of close to half-a-dozen burglaries, including three in Hopatcong.
On Saturday, a Superior Court Judge ordered for Major to be set free. The next day, police in Morris Plains arrested him for allegedly burglarizing another home. Due to bail reform, he was released, again.
"It’s insane. It defies all common sense,” said Lt. Kmetz.
Just a couple hours before our interview, Hopatcong residents called 911.
They allegedly spotted Major going door-to-door in their neighborhood. He was arrested and turned over to Rockaway Police, where he is also a wanted man but is due to be released.
Police say Major approaches homes wearing a yellow, reflective vest and that he poses as a DPW employee. He allegedly targets homes while people are at work by ringing the front doorbell and if no one answers, he breaks in the back.
PIX11 spoke to some of his alleged victims, who said they are angry and afraid that he’s out on the street.
"We’re in fear, we’re worried like who is gonna break into our house next? And what if it escalates?” said a neighbor to one of the burglarized homes.
Lt. Kmetz says law enforcement’s hands are tied. He says that he used to rely on his 25-years of experience and the facts in a particular case. Ever since January 1, he says police are forced to instead rely on a computer algorithm, which spits out a ‘score’ for any given suspect. In Major’s case, he scored a 3, which did not allow police to hold him.
Police say that when they arrested him they found heroin needles, crack pipes, jewelry and signed sports memorabilia. Victims who spoke to PIX11 say they lost jewelry, cash savings and irreplaceable family heirlooms.
"It needs to be fixed,” a resident told us.
"We’re gonna keep doing what we do,” said Lt. Kmetz.