"My intention was to keep him around with conversation until the police arrived," said Mayor Tony Coppola recalling the night last week that he had to chase down a man who was caught on video burglarizing two of his businesses, Fred & Ethel's Lantern Light restaurant and the Smithville Inn at the shops of Historic Smithville .
"As soon as I saw him go over the fence, I yelled, 'Wait up' and he proceeded down Route 9," said the mayor.
Police arrived a short time later and arrested 31-year-old George Dean Jr. of Port Republic.
But 24 hours later, Dean was released from jail and struck again. This time police say he used a large stick to threaten a clerk at Pete's Convenience store on Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City. Police say he opened the register, took cash and fled. Then that night, he entered the Game Stop on Atlantic Ave and handed a note to the clerk demanding cash.
He indicated he had a gun. After getting money he fled. Police looked at the surveillance video and couldn't believe what they saw.
Police said, "That's George Dean."
"It was discouraging, I gotta say, Dann, it was discouraging," said the mayor.
Atlantic City police spotted him the next day and took him into custody.
The mayor says this is all a result of bail reform which was intended to ease prison overcrowding.
"In theory, it's a great idea. And I fully agree with them, people who are poor and don't have enough money shouldn't be at a disadvantage of people who can pay bail, bail themselves out of jail. However, in practice, you get things like this where it lets people back on the street," he said.
Dean has been charged with two counts of robbery, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes and theft.
Mayor Coppola is hoping this time they keep Dean in jail and get him some help before he or someone else is hurt.