Gov. Phil Murphy, alongside state Senate President Nick Scutari and state Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, has announced his support for a series of legislative proposals and administrative actions to combat auto theft in New Jersey.
The Nov. 7 announcement builds upon steps taken earlier this year, which have already proven to have an impact. Auto thefts in September were down 14% from September 2021. In October, auto thefts were down 12% from October 2021, according to a press release from Murphy’s office.
“I am grateful for the collaborative work that has been done across government in partnership with law enforcement at the state and local levels to combat crime in our state,” Murphy said.
“Today’s steps, which include increasing penalties for persistent auto theft offenders and criminalizing certain conduct related to auto theft tools and catalytic converters, will strengthen this administration’s efforts to reverse the uptick in vehicle theft we have witnessed over the past few years.
“However, we also ask that our residents take additional measures to protect themselves from auto theft. If you cannot park your car in a closed and locked garage, make sure your vehicle is locked and that the key fob is with you,” Murphy said.
Murphy announced his support for a series of legislative measures to combat auto theft. Some versions of these measures have already been introduced, according to the press release.
The Governor proposed:
• Establishing a persistent auto theft offender statute, which would give state and local prosecutors the option to seek more serious criminal consequences for those who have been repeatedly found guilty of stealing cars;
• Making possession and distribution of certain auto theft tools a crime;
• Imposing criminal penalties for the failure to comply with certain guidelines in the sale and purchase of catalytic converters;
• Investing in enhanced pretrial services, which will reduce the risk from individuals who are awaiting trial. This will include:
• Pretrial monitoring by law enforcement;
• Expansion of the use of house arrest paired with location monitoring;
• Providing additional resources related to substance abuse, mental health and housing insecurity.
Murphy also announced that the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) will start working to add a check box to vehicle registration paperwork allowing residents to “opt in” to a program that automatically permits law enforcement to track participating registered vehicles if a vehicle is ever stolen, according to the press release.
Additionally, MVC will focus on messaging the importance to new drivers of safely handling key fobs by not leaving them inside a car or stored in their home too close to the car.
“The Murphy Administration continues to take a comprehensive approach to keeping New Jersey residents safe. Particularly when it comes to combating the rise in auto thefts, we are deploying every tool possible – creative legislation, technological investments and traditional enforcement. Public safety will always be our top priority,” New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin said.
“Auto theft not only victimizes the owner of the vehicle, but it can also victimize the whole community. Stolen vehicles are often used in the commission of crimes and can be found driving recklessly on our roads creating a dangerous environment for everyone,” said Col. Patrick J. Callahan, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police.
“The support Gov. Murphy has provided with the additional resources have proven to be pivotal in our effort to combat this national issue. Those resources added with the new legislative and administrative steps shows this state’s commitment to supporting not only law enforcement, but its commitment to the safety of all New Jersey residents,” Callahan said.
Earlier this year, Murphy announced a $10 million investment in automated license plate recognition (ALPR) technology to reduce violent crime and auto theft in New Jersey through the federal American Rescue Plan State Fiscal Recovery Fund, according to the press release.
In addition, Platkin announced in March that additional resources would be allocated to grow the Auto Theft Task Force (ATTF).
Since then, both the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice have added additional detectives and prosecutors to the ATTF.
And, $125,000 in federal Justice Assistance Grant funds were also immediately provided to bolster the resources and capabilities of the ATTF, including law enforcement personnel and equipment purchases, according to the press release.
Platkin has also revised the police pursuit policy to explicitly permit the pursuit of stolen cars, among other efforts, according to the press release.