04/24/06 - Posted from the Daily Record newsroom
Fake drug display at police expo lures suspect
Blairstown teen nabbed at Rockaway Townsquare
BY ROB SEMAN
ROCKAWAY TWP. --The fourth annual Police Expo turned out to be a learning experience for one Blairstown teen --Don't try to steal in front of police officers.
The 18-year-old man had walked up to the booth staffed by Mendham and Mendham Township police officers on Saturday with a particular interest in the display case holding facsimiles of popular drugs.
That alone would have been harmless. But he decided that he wanted a closer look and tried to pop open the case, police said.
He didn't get far, to say the least. Onlookers got a chance to see the police officers standing behind the tables throughout the mall snap into action as they swooped in on the teen.
"We saw it. We ran over and detained him,"said Mendham Township Police Sgt. William Lunger.
"There was one mother there with her child who pointed at the guy and said, 'You see? That's what happens when you break the law,'" Lunger said.
The teen was charged with criminal mischief by Rockaway Township police. The full arrest report, including the name of the teenager, was not available on Sunday night.
While the rest of the exhibits didn't involve quite as active a display, plenty of shoppers in the Rockaway Townsquare mall stopped at the expo on Saturday and Sunday to get a better look at how police officers and other law enforcement agencies do their jobs.
The event was started four years ago by the Morris County Park Police and Rockaway Township police in an attempt to give people a better view of the broad range of police work, said Park Police Capt. Gloria Sullivan.
Thirty-eight law enforcement agencies -- most of them from or located in Morris County -- participated in this year's expo. The park police offer free fingerprinting to visitors, and on average they fingerprint 450 to 500 children at each expo.
Seven-year-old Austin Hastings of Wharton peppered Officer Brian Ahern and Det. James Rae of the Morris County Sheriff's Department with questions about the array of rifles at the sheriff's booth. But the officers also showed the youth other tools, such as a new night-vision goggle.
"It clamps on your helmet, and if you're right-handed or left-handed it can click from eye to eye," Rae said. The hand-sized device allows officers to magnify their vision up to four times and to see in the dark.
Austin's parents, Ed and Chris Hastings, said that aside from the guns, they and their son also got a better sense of the broad duties that police officers have.
"He (Austin) plays a lot of games, so he thinks it's just shooting. But you get him out here and see what else they do,"Chris Hastings said.
Hastings said she was surprised to learn about the state Department of Human Services police. Sgt. Lawrence A. Lynn, said he has heard that a lot.
As parents brought their children to the division's booth to climb aboard the division's ATV, Lynn and Sgt. Steve Sexton told them that Human Services police have regular police duties, such as traffic enforcement. But they also police psychiatric institutions, such as Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Parsippany; are involved with Megan's Law enforcement; and are involved in the recoveries of children by the state Division of Youth and Family Services.
"They didn't know about it,"Lynn said.
The expo allowed local police to showcase some of the tools and methods they use to do their jobs. They also were able to show off additions to their forces, such as the Hanover Police Department's new motorcycle. The pilot vehicle is leased, and the township police plan to get another two motorcycles this year, said Sgt. Dave White.
"I think it gives people a sense of what their tax dollars are going towards," White said.
Hanover's booth also had a display case with drug props inside, such as a bracelet of candy beads that police said drug users often dip in the club drug ecstasy. The case also showed how common prescription drugs or other household substances can be used illegally.
The display was something that many parents found enlightening and disturbing, White said.
"They didn't say it, but they had that look on their face of, 'Is that what it's for?'" White said. "They've seen it before."