New Jersey lawmakers are confronting the crisis of automobile thefts within the Garden State with of a number of proposed bills passed by a key state senate committee.
The pending legislation being offered, will directly address a multitude of issues currently confronting New Jersey motorists. From increased penalties for carjacking and car theft, to upgrading the degrees of crimes for stealing a vehicle, includes a bill that would allow for better tracking of catalytic converters.
State Sen. Brian Stack (D-33), Chairman of the State Senate Judiciary Committee, offered that Democrats were putting forth a number of proposals to help stem this increase in crime.
State Senate Hearings
“Auto thefts have risen dramatically over the last several years, threatening the safety and security of our residents,” said Stack. “The goal of this hearing was, primarily, to take feedback from police, prosecutors, advocacy groups, local partners, and other stakeholders to understand the problem and determine the best course of action going forward. We’re determined to make our communities safe.”
State Senate President Nick Scutari (D-22) added that while car thefts are nothing new, the problem has been taken to entirely new levels in recent years.
“We are seeing things we have not seen before, with organized car theft rings, catalytic converter theft rings, criminals breaking into homes to steal fobs, and the organized use of juveniles,” said Scutari. “It is clear that more has to be done to stop this surge and protect the safety and security of our communities.”
A Bundle of New Bills
New Jersey State Police Officer Major Lawrence Williams testified before the Law and Public Safety Committee Hearings that within the last 11 months of this year over 14,000 autos have been stolen away from New Jersey motorists. That number is 41% higher than the record low set in 2020.
The new bundle of bills just approved by the committee was introduced by a number of senators including North Jersey State Sens. Richard Codey (D-27), Paul Sarlo (D-36) and Joseph Lagana (D-38).
The first bill (S-3006) sponsored by Codey and State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25) would increase penalties for repeat offenders of certain motor vehicle related crimes. The bill would also increase sanctions against the heads of auto-theft rings that conspire with juveniles under the age of 17 to steal cars.
“This bill sends a strong message to anyone thinking of stealing a motor vehicle. If you commit the crime, we will catch you and you will do the time,” said Bucco.
Monitoring Catalytic Converters
The former governor introduced a second bill, S-3296, that would require every vehicle’s identification number to be stamped on catalytic converters of motor vehicles. This device is a primary target for auto theft rings because of the valuable metals housed within this auto part.
“This is not child’s play,” said Codey. “These are sophisticated, well-financed, well-organized business operations, more or less corporations. If we want to get serious about this we are going to have to meet them with muscle along several fronts, and not just, in many cases, merely by arresting the teen-age perpetrators who may be in service of high-level gangs.”
Senator’s Lagana and Sarlo introduced a pair of bills, S-2283, and S-2284, to upgrade penalties for auto theft to a second-degree crime, including increasing penalties for carjacking and for theft of a motor vehicle.
“When a person’s car is stolen, it wreaks havoc on their daily routine on top of the financial and emotional distress caused by such a personal violation,” said Lagana. “In New Jersey, the vast majority of residents depend on their cars to get back and forth to work, to get their kids to school, or to go wherever they need to be. We need to make sure would-be criminals know that the penalties will be stiff, and that justice will be served.”
Targeting Trafficking Networks
A separate bill (S-3345), authored by Sarlo-Lagana along with Republican State Sens. Jon Bramnick (R-21) and Holly Schepisi (R-39), would upgrade penalties for those individuals heading up an auto theft trafficking network, while also charging gang members within the auto theft trafficking network with a second-degree crime penalty.
“The rampant and widespread increase in auto thefts calls for a comprehensive plan to crack down on offenders, to help prevent thefts, and take down the criminal networks of car thieves,” said Senator Sarlo. “We are working together to develop a legislative action plan on vehicle thefts. We need to protect our communities from the threat and dangers of car thefts and related crimes.”
Stiffer Penalties for Carjacking and Auto Thefts
Three other bills sponsored by State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-11) and Lagana have been approved by the committee.
The first (S-3389) would focus on auto thefts and those individuals who accept stolen vehicles as a separate statutory provision, along with establishing extended sentences for certain repeat offenders.
The second (S-3390) would expand criminal penalties related to the illegal use of a motor vehicle master key. The pending bill would amend the current law, making it a fourth-degree crime for any person to knowingly possess and use a key fob owned by another person, without the owner’s agreement.
Additionally, the bill would target individuals using a computer program commonly used to start a motor vehicle without an ignition key or key fob. Such devices are becoming more common in auto thefts.
The third bill, S-3028, would increase penalties on both juveniles and adults alike, convicted of stealing a motor vehicle along with any related crimes. The bill would impose a minimum mandatory sentence of 180 days in prison without parole for first time offenders.
“Criminals are burglarizing houses for key fobs, stealing cars right out of people’s driveways, and using the vehicles to commit other crimes. Simply stated, we can’t continue to stand by and wait for things to get better,” said Gopal. “This menace continues to threaten life, home, and property across our state, and places added strain on law enforcement. It’s time to act.”
The local PD won’t be capturing any of these criminals and will probably injure innocent people in car crashes during the car chases.
WOW! This is so Lame: “require every vehicle’s identification number to be stamped on catalytic converters of motor vehicles…” NOW; How ridiculous is that!! AND; This present Leadership, HAS definitely Lost all of their Marble’s!! Also, the increasing Jail Time only benefit’s those Profit Institution’s!! Me thinks, They know Not what they are doing!! Maybe that Covid’ is to Blame!! Very Hilarious Bill’s being Passed onto those Volumes of Law’s & all there Bye Law’s!!//