YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Bergen County Police officer this morning chased down a 26-year-old escapee from a state halfway house after a chase involving a car stolen out of New Milford moments earlier.
Officer Jason Gretkowski was on patrol in Teterboro when he spotted the stolen blue Mazda CX-9 on Route 46 West around 7 a.m., BCPD Lt. James Mullin told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.
Gretkowski was waiting for backup officers when the driver “began to act as if he was looking to bail out and run on foot,” Mullin said.
The officer activated his cruiser’s lights and tried pulling the driver over, but he kept going.
Moments later, the driver stopped on Gregg Street in Lodi and took off on foot — but was quickly grabbed by Gretkowski, the lieutenant said.
A computer search at headquarters determined that the suspect, Alfonso Bowen, had fled the Tully halfway house in Newark last Friday.
Bowen had already served four years of what would have been a maximum 6-year state prison sentence for a variety of convictions — including aggravated assault, weapons and drug possession and stalking — out of Hudson County, records show. He was already in the halfway house, ahead of a January 2015 parole.
Tully House is a privately owned and operated facility contracted by the state to house inmates, with its own security. There are no NJDOC uniformed staff there.
Bergen County Police charged Bowen with:
• receiving stolen property
• resisting arrest
• hindering apprehension
• being a fugitive from justice
Additional charges were expected from both New Milford Police and the DOC.
Meanwhile, Bowen was being held without bail pending a court appearance.
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THAT MAKES TWO (FUGITIVES): An hour after the arrest, BCPD Officer Thomas Mucci stopped a van with commercial plates by not exterior lettering Route 46 West ramp to Route 17 North and discovered the driver was wanted by the Osceola County (FLA) Sheriff’s Department for grand theft and trafficking in stolen property. Joel Michael Mendez is being held in the Bergen County Jail pending extradition to Florida.
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Last December, state lawmakers introduced a host of bills that would require an overhall at New Jersey’s privately operated halfway houses, after a state audit two years ago found security problems and poor financial oversight.
A New York Times series also exposed violence, drug use, and gang activity at several halfway houses operated by a company with ties to Gov. Christie and top legislators.
To this point, however, the only movement has been on the creation of a task force — approved by the Assembly Committee on Law and Public Safety two weeks ago.
It has no companion bill in the state Senate.
In 2011 alone, the state spent $65 million in contracts with 20 “reentry centers,” as they are called.
Critics say the services these facilities offer — including treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, job training and behavior therapy — should be provided while the convicts are still imprisoned. This could save money and focus expenses on post-release programs.
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