By Briana Vannozzi
“It’s not going away, that has some scar” said Rajesh Singh.
Five home invasions in Middlesex County in just a little over a month. Bound and gagged with guns to their heads and children home left to watch while robbers ransack the homes.
“It should not have happened with the kids at home. Invasion with the kids just takes it to a different level.” said Neetu Singh.
The attacks appear to be targeted. Rajesh and Neetu Singh of Edison are just one of the five south Asian families robbed by armed gunman.
According to the Middlesex County prosecutors office the string of burglaries began in Old Bridge on Oct. 20 then two more on Oct. 26 and Nov. 29. A South Plainfield home on Oct. 28 and the Singh’s home in Edison on Oct. 30.
“I just slid the door open like an inch and I guess they were right there waiting for me,” Singh said.
“There have been times where south Asian homes have been robbed but I don’t think we’ve seen a pattern like this as far as I recall in the last 25 years,” said Satish Poondi.
Poondi is the legal advisor for the county’s Indian Business association. With more than a million South Asians in the community, Middlesex boasts one of the largest populations in the state. He says anecdotally there tends to be an uptick in burglaries around the holiday season — especially Diwali — a Hindu celebration where expensive gifts are exchanged.
“Part of that goes toward stereotypes that a south Asian community has a lot of cash and jewelry at home and that’s not necessarily true,” said Poondi.
The community, while on edge, is being more vigilant.
“They’re not throwing the trash out alone they’re going together — they’re making sure they’re locking their doors both the back door and front door,” said Poondi.
“This is a total surprise and it’s a new concept for us that you have to be extra careful in holiday season,” said Singh.
The prosecutor’s office won’t comment on details of the cases while they’re under investigation but there are a few things in common with each of the robberies. The families were home at the time, tied up and asked for either money or jewelry.
Not everyone is satisfied with the law enforcement’s work and stepped up community activism.
“It’s almost two months, no one is apprehended the criminals are free they can target anyone again,” said community activist Peter Kothari.
The Middlesex County prosecutor’s office won’t say if the invasions are linked or release descriptions of the suspects. They wore masks and didn’t speak. Prosecutors are working with the FBI, state and local police departments on the investigation. Rewards are being offered for tips and they’re asking anyone who sees suspicious activity to report it.