The DNA off a discarded cigarette broke the case of a rash of 100 vehicle break-ins in the area that took place in a single month last year.
Frank Ferraro, 20, of Woodbridge and Michael North, 22, of Rahway were arrested last week on charges of allegedly breaking into 100 automobiles in November, 2011. A third individual, a juvenile who has not yet been apprehended, is in Florida. His whereabouts are unknown, said Woodbridge Police Captain Roy Hoppock.
It was the DNA evidence collected at the scene of one of the break-ins, Hoppock said, that nailed the perpetrators.
The discarded cigarette butt was sent to the NJ State Police Crime Lab for processing. The suspect's DNA was already in the database, and they got a match, Hoppock said.
He didn't say which suspect's DNA was involved.
Ferraro and North were both charged 54 counts of burglary, 40 counts of theft, and two counts of criminal mischief. They were also charged with one count each of using a juvenile - in this case, the unnamed juvenile not yet in custody in Florida - under the age of 17 to commit a crime.
Both Ferraro and North "are known to us," Hoppock said. Both have had previous skirmishes with law enforcement.
The suspects pilfered items from cars that usually didn't have the doors locked. The two counts of criminal mischief refer to vehicles they allegedly had to physically break into because the doors weren't open, Hoppock said.
North was also charged with two counts of arson. One was at a December 11 fire in an unoccupied house on Colonia Boulevard, and the other was a January 7 fire set on a car at on St. George Avenue in Avenel.
The pair didn't confine the thefts to one area of the township, Hoppock said: "They went all over, from Colonia to Fords, back to Woodbridge. They had no preference."
The Edison and Rahway Police Departments, as well as the Union County Police Department, worked with Woodbridge on solving the crime spree.
Chief Dan Vaniska, head of the Union County Police Department, said their interest in the crime was aroused when the vehicle of one of their department's police officers was broken into.
The officer lives in Middlesex County, Vaniska said.
"They stole summons books, police gear, that sort of thing," he said. No weapons were taken from the vehicle.
Both suspects were being held at the Middlesex County Detention Facility in North Brunswick. Bail was set at $100,000 for Ferraro; for North, bail was $75,000 on the vehicle charges, and $35,000 for the arson allegations.