Senior Sleuth Stops Shoplifter
A grandmother and her granddaughter call 911 when they sense something isn’t quite right at CVS.
There’s a 70-something grandmother in town who may not look like Nancy Drew, but she was an amateur sleuth this weekend when she helped nab a suspected shoplifter at the Livingston CVS, a case we're calling the Clue in the Box of Tissues.
“I was a secret shopper,” said our heroine, a longtime resident of Livingston, who asked that her name not be used. “I have an antenna. And I also watch a lot of crime shows.”
On Sunday afternoon, she headed to CVS on South Livingston Avenue with her granddaughter to buy a box of tissues and pick up some medicine.
In the parking lot they noticed a man bending over the back of his car. “At first glance, I thought he was changing his license plates,” the grandmother said in an interview with Patch.
They already were sensing that something was amiss as grandmother and granddaughter picked up their tissues and headed back to their car. That’s when they noticed that the front license plate of the car they had glanced at before was covered with – tissues! They went over to the rear of the car and discovered tissues covering that tag as well.
"It was pretty obvious, but a lot of people were passing by without noticing," our town’s senior sleuth said.
Set on solving the mystery, they got into their own car and drove a safe distance in the parking lot to call 911. They didn’t know exactly what tissues over the tags meant, but they did know it was odd.
They accurately described to police the car -- “I knew it was a Chevy. I knew it was maroon. I knew it was a new model. I knew it was a sedan,” the grandmother said – and provided a description of the suspect as well: “A white young man wearing a baseball cap and blue jacket.”
This is where Livingston Police enter the story.
“She thought it was very suspicious and she was right,” said Det. Sgt. Anthony Dippold.
Two patrol cars swiftly came to the scene and waited to see what was going on, Dippold said. What they observed was a man running to the car carrying a red CVS shopping basket full of items and placing it in the front seat of his car. A patrol officer checked with the cashier inside to see if the merchandise had been paid for.
The goods hadn’t been, and when totaled rang up to $291.66, a variety of items, including 19 packages of AA batteries, a box of Oreo cookies, and two bottles of cough syrup, Dippold said.
Livingston Police arrested Matthew Burr, 31, of Piscataway on two counts: theft of moveable property and receiving stolen property. It’s an indictable offense because the items taken are valued over $200, Dippold said.
Burr was released after posting $2,500 bail pending an appearance on March 16 in Essex County Superior Court. His car, a 2008 Chevy Malibu was impounded.
“He would have gotten away if we hadn’t made the call,” Livingston’s senior sleuth said.
Livingston Police agreed. “We applaud her actions for observing something suspicious and calling us,” Dippold said.