MARLBORO — Less than one week after four residents of Newark were arrested following their attempts to gain access into vehicles in Marlboro, Gov. Phil Murphy visited the township to update officials on efforts to combat the ongoing theft of motor vehicles in New Jersey’s suburbs.
According to a social media post from Marlboro’s municipal government, on April 29, Mayor Jonathan Hornik, Police Chief Peter Pezzullo, police officers and local officials welcomed Gov. Phil Murphy, New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin, New Jersey State Police Lt. Col. Fritz Frage and New Jersey State PBA Executive Vice President Marc Kovar to Marlboro for an announcement that $10 million in American Rescue Funds for advanced license plate readers to help combat suburban auto thefts and the vehicle pursuit policy will be reinstated.
“I am very grateful our concerns were heard and acknowledged and that swift action was taken to address the issue of auto thefts in suburban communities. Government came together to make this change and I thank everyone involved for their contribution. One sentiment was shared by everyone at the podium: Lock your cars. Take your fob with you. Together, we fight auto theft,” Hornik said.
According to a press release from Murphy’s office, the $10 million investment in automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology to reduce violent crime and motor vehicle theft in New Jersey will be funded through the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) State Fiscal Recovery Fund.
The funds will be used to purchase and expand existing high-speed, automated camera systems to capture and store computer-readable images of license plates in a centralized database accessible to law enforcement, according to the press release.
The technology will be installed at fixed locations throughout New Jersey and mounted on mobile units. This equipment provides law enforcement agencies additional tools to address the increase in motor vehicle thefts and a corresponding rise in violent crime seen in suburban and urban areas of New Jersey, according to the press release.
“The alarming uptick we are seeing in vehicle theft is unacceptable and our administration is making investments to combat these occurrences statewide,” Murphy was quoted as saying in the press release. “To aid law enforcement in this endeavor, an investment in ALPR technology will provide them with the tools they need to reduce these incidents and make our communities safer.”
“Marlboro police officers do a great job for our community and I support their efforts 100% but they need to have the tools to do their job effectively,” Hornik said. “I reached out to Gov. Murphy to share my concerns and thank him for his meaningful acknowledgement of the unique needs and concerns of New Jersey’s many suburban communities.”
“Today’s visit to Marlboro highlights Gov. Murphy’s commitment to work hand in hand with local law enforcement agencies as we strive to continually improve our service to the communities we have sworn to protect,” Pezzullo said.
“I am sure I speak for other law enforcement leaders throughout the state when I say that Gov. Murphy’s investment in these technologies will help provide much needed data that can be used to detect possible criminal actors in a wide variety of investigations,” the police chief said.
New Jersey has seen a significant spike in motor vehicle theft since the coronavirus pandemic’s onset, an all-time high of 14,320 vehicles in 2021 in comparison to the previous five years.
The first quarter of 2022 is on track to have a 53% increase in motor vehicle thefts from 2020. Increases in motor vehicle theft have occurred across the state, in both suburban and urban areas.
Stolen cars are frequently associated with other violent crimes, particularly shootings. A significant percentage of individuals who commit auto theft offenses have also been involved in shootings, according to the press release.
At the same time, Platkin reinstituted vehicular pursuits in incidents of theft of a motor vehicle until at least Dec. 31, 2022.
In his order, Platkin wrote, “I have directed the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability to review the available data as of that date, including stolen vehicle trends, effectiveness of pursuits and resulting accidents, and determine whether this provision should remain or be modified. Absent additional action, this provision will remain in force after Dec. 31, 2022.”
Marlboro police reported that at 3 a.m. April 24, residents in the Woods development off Falson Lane and Ticetown Road dialed 911 and reported that unknown individuals were attempting to gain access into a vehicle.
Police said the vehicle was locked and entry could not be gained. Police said the individuals fled the Woods development and were located a short time later by Sgt. David Taglietta.
A motor vehicle stop was initiated and the individuals were arrested following an investigation by the officers on location.
A 27-year-old female and a 30-year-old female, both of Newark, were each charged with attempted burglary and released on a summons.
A 31-year-old male and a 33-year-old male, both of Newark, were each charged with attempted burglary and hindering apprehension and were placed in the Monmouth County jail, Freehold Township, to await an initial court appearance.
Police said the suspects’ vehicle was impounded and the investigation into the incident is continuing with the assistance of the police department’s Detective Bureau.