Galloway Township mayor helps catch burglary suspect, police say

Trish Hartman Image
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Galloway Township mayor helps catch burglary suspect, police say
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Galloway Township mayor helps catch burglary suspect, police say. Trish Hartman reports during Action News at 5pm on October 24, 2019.

GALLOWAY TWP., N.J. (WPVI) -- Police in Galloway Township, New Jersey say they were able to catch a burglary suspect with help from the township's mayor - who was also a victim of the burglary spree.

Police say Galloway Township Mayor Tony Coppola's two restaurants fell prey. The first was Fred and Ethels Lantern Light Restaurant, where the suspect was caught on camera early Wednesday morning taking cash from behind the bar. He's identified by police as George Dean Jr.

"They got a small amount of cash but the real consequence was that they stole one of our maintenance director's keys," Coppola said.

Police say Dean came back a second night in a row, this time to the Coppola's other restaurant, the Smithville Inn. Coppola said the locks had already been changed, and this time the restaurant wasn't empty.

"I got a phone call from one of my managers saying that the suspect is back on property again," he said.

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Coppola says Dean was trying to get in through a back door when he started chasing the suspect down Route 9 as he was on the phone with 911.

"I yelled for him to stop and he jumped the fence and continued on Route 9," said Coppola.

Police arrived and arrested Dean, saying he was wearing the same jacket caught on surveillance video the night before, and was in possession of the maintenance director's keys.

Word of the chase and arrest quickly spread.

"I'd call 911 but I wouldn't chase him. I'd give him whatever he wanted," said Sheila Zorzi of Galloway Township.

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Police also say Dean is responsible for a recent burglary at a Spirit gas station down the street.

While police say they don't want citizens to put themselves in danger when they encounter crime, Coppola says he was happy to help.

"The only thing I could think of as I was pursuing this guy was - I don't want to let them down. Because I know it means a lot to catch these guys," said Coppola.