Woodbridge NJ: Oak Tree Road jewelry robbery leaves businesses shaken

2022-06-25 13:15:56 By : Mr. Mark Li

WOODBRIDGE – Police have apparently increased patrols in the heart of the Asian business district along Oak Tree Road in Iselin after a brazen group of armed and masked suspects smashed display cases and filled bags with gold from a jewelry store early Friday evening.

The smash-and-grab robbery at Virani Jewelers, 1396 Oak Tree Road, frightened employees and area business owners. Some employees sustained injuries, but none were considered serious or life-threatening, police said. The store was closed Monday.

"People are definitely concerned about it. It's a big thing what happened over there," said Mahesh Shah, a member of the township's Oak Tree Road Special Improvement District. "Everyone was scared but we are working with the township to increase the police presence." 

He said some businesses are considering whether to hire security guards.

Police have not yet responded to a request for information about increased police patrols as well as a description of the suspects and their vehicle.

"This was very scary and unfortunate that most media did not cover it," said Pradip "Peter" Kothari, president of the nonprofit Indo American Cultural Society of USA, and the former founding president of the Indian Business Association, adding the robbery occurred in one of the township’s most vibrant business areas with the most jewelry stores. He said the area attracts customers from all over the state. He questions why there is not a police substation in that section.

Kothari also questioned why township officials have not released any comments about the robbery. 

Because it was still light out, Kothari said this was basically a daytime robbery in which two cars with robbers parked in front of the jewelry store.

The store's security video, which was released on social media, captured the less than two-minute heist in which about eight suspects entered Virani Jewelers around 7:45 p.m. June 10, just before the business was set to close for the night. 

The store specializes in jewelry with South Asian styles, especially gold, some intricately designed pieces and sets with price tags of more than $7,000, according to its website. Virani Jewelers has several locations in the Iselin section. 

The total amount stolen from the store on Friday has not been disclosed.

The video appears to show the suspects rushing into the business after one person was buzzed inside.

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Kothari said insurance policies require anyone entering the jewelry store be buzzed in to enter. He wondered how six or seven people were able to quickly follow someone entering the store.

One masked suspect with a gun jumped over a display counter while three others also entered, including one who appeared to push an employee to the floor. 

Using hammers, the suspects smashed the glass display cases and grabbed trays of gold jewelry. Some stuffed the merchandise into bags while others just carried the display trays out of the store.   

It appears about eight suspects were involved, including one who guarded the store's front door. A car horn appears to have been used to alert the suspects it was time to leave. Someone outside the store is also heard yelling, "come on, come on" before the last suspect, wearing a white shirt, leaves the store.

It's unclear if Friday's incident has any connection to similar smash-and-grab thefts caught on video in California and New York. In April about $50,000 worth of jewelry was stolen by a group of thieves during a smash-and-grab incident at a Bronx store. A Yonkers jewelry store also was recently targeted.

This isn't the first time Virani Jewelers has been targeted. In November 2008 burglars smashed the window of the Marconi Avenue store in the early morning hours and made off with about $50,000 worth of merchandise, according to police.

Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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