The manager of the E-Z Ship & Shop convenience store on Maple Avenue is running out of patience.
Over the weekend -- for the third time this year -- a burglar smashed in the store's front door and ransacked its supply of smoking-related products in the middle of the night.
When the store's manager received a call from the alarm company informing him of the break-in around 1 a.m. Saturday, he said he told them to tell the police that he wasn't even coming to the scene.
"I'm very upset, very frustrated," said E-Z Ship & Shop's manager, who asked to be identified only as Abe. "This is costing us so much money and causing us so much heartache."
He said it's reached the point that the business is considering leaving Fair Lawn.
"Either we're getting out of here or we're going to do somethign about it," said Abe, who's considering installing either a security grille or security cameras, but can't currently afford either.
"It's sad that you've got to do that in an area like this," he said of adding security equipment. "A few years ago this never would have happened."
The annual number of burglaries in Fair Lawn has doubled in recent years, from 35 in 2009 to a nine-year high of 73 in 2011, according to Uniform Crime Report data.
Following a surge of break-ins earlier this year, the borough appeared on pace to shatter its 2011 burglary figures, but break-ins have dwindled since late spring and, as of Nov. 1, were up only 7 percent over last year.
Because of similarities in the October and December break-ins at E-Z Ship & Shop, police believe they were likely perpetrated by the same individual. The first incident in late February -- although it too involved the theft of smoking products --does not appear to be connected, said Detective Sgt. Brian Metzler, who is working the most recent case.
Without surveillance footage from the burglary, Metzler said police are behind the eight ball because they lack any information about the burglar's gender, age, race or size.
The object used to break the store's glass door was not recovered and there weren't any evidentiary fingerprints or items left at the scene.
"Sometimes they’ll leave a couple packs of cigarettes scattered around, so you'll get an idea what direction they ran in," Metzler said. "In this particular case they didn’t leave anything. I walked up and down Maple Avenue, all around the building, and there is nothing."
The burglar or burglars do not appear to have made an attempt to access the cash register in any of the break-ins, opting only to load up on cigarettes, cigars and lighters.
Metzler said it's not completely unusual for a burglar to target smoking-related products, either for personal use or for selling on the black market. He said the theft of electric cigarettes in this case, however, indicates the burglar is likely selling the proceeds.
"Anyone smoking cigarettes isn't going to need electric cigarettes," he explained.
Abe said damage from the latest burglary -- which he estimates at between $6,000 and $7,000 -- has been the most costly to date.
He'd like to install security cameras -- as the police have recommended -- but is dubious of their value.
"Once we get enough money we'll probably [install cameras], but if the guy is wearing a mask, how can it help?" he said, before joking that he should just leave a note for the burglar next time.
"How about I'll give you (the burglar) a couple cartons every month or two if you don't break the door down and cause a mess," he quipped.
Police don't believe the individual responsible for the E-Z Ship & Shop break-ins is the same one who burglarized a series of strip mall stores earlier this spring and is suspected in some 150 burglaries across Northern New Jersey.