SPECIAL REPORT: Authorities have cracked a string of burglaries at Elks Clubs and VFW and American Legion Halls in North Jersey thanks in part to a DNA match — not from fingerprints but from a surgical mask found in the area of a Tenafly job.
The latest charges come from New Milford police against 45-year-old career burglar Herbie V. Sheffield of Elizabeth in connection with a July 25, 2011 break-in at the borough Elks Club.
The cleaning service for the building called police that day after finding a safe pried open, Police Chief Frank Papapietro said.
The bar’s register and coin boxes for gaming equipment were also popped, the chief said.
The Bergen County Sheriff’s Office Bureau of Criminal Identification processed the scene, but couldn’t find prints. The Elks Club didn’t have surveillance video, either.
It would have been a tough case to solve, Papapietro said, if not for cooperation among area police agencies — not to mention Sheffield’s propensity for burglary.
Similar establishments were being hit in other towns around the same time — including the Tenafly Elks Club, the chief noted. Detectives reviewed surveillance tape from that break-in, which showed the burglar wearing a surgical mask, he said.
Police found a similar mask in the area and sent it the New Jersey State Police Laboratory for DNA testing.
Then, a few months ago, police from Summit charged Sheffield in connection with a string of similar crimes in their area.
The evidence was overwhelming: Besides video images and DNA matches from clothing and other items found in Sheffield’s car, police recovered a list of area Elks Clubs and other establishments.
These included Jack E. Pooh’s in Bergenfield, where nearly $4,300 was taken from an ATM machine and cash register a month ago last week.
Sheffield, in turn, copped to some of the break-ins, Papapietro said.
Although several police departments have charged him with burglaries in their towns, charges may follow from others, as well, including Rutherford and Teaneck.
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