Task force lauded for arrest of suspect senior thief

The size of a press conference announcing the arrest of James Eichele could suggest the department believes he is the Early Bird Burglar, even if they are staying mum for now.

Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch Ford was flanked by members of more than a dozen police agencies to herald the arrest of Eichele. The officers are all members of a special task force formed three years ago to catch the serial thief, and sources say Eichele is believed to be responsible for the string of break-ins.

"I'm not prepared at this point to say that this individual is responsible for all 200 burglaries," says Ford, however.

Ford did applaud the task force for catching Eichele.

''They, in short, performed excellent police work which brought them to this point that we're at today,'' she said.

The Early Bird Burglar has hit age-restricted retirement communities since 2005. The culprit would wait until the early evening, when retirees leave their homes for dinner.

Using the woods as cover, the Early Bird Burglar would enter from the tree line and break into the nearest homes through rear windows or doors. The thief would then ransack the joint for cash and jewelry.

Police: NJ 'early-bird special burglar' caught

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