Following the December 5, 2022, Assembly Law and Public Safety committee meeting concerning the increase in motor vehicle thefts in New Jersey over the last two years, the Monmouth County Assemblywomen released the following statement:
"Yesterday's testimony from stakeholders across the state has made it clear that fines alone will not stop these brazen acts of auto theft. Instead, we must ensure that these criminals are held accountable for their crimes and stop those flagrantly putting our residents' lives in danger and jeopardizing our constituents' peace of mind and safety. If we consider this an opportunity crime—in other words, solely blaming owners who leave vehicles running or forget their keys in the car while thieves boldly break into people's homes, we don't address what drives these individuals to commit such thefts or ways to prevent them in the future.
This summer, we introduced a series of bills that would increase the penalties for carjacking and other crimes related to taking vehicles unlawfully. One bill would impose mandatory sentencing for thefts involving motor vehicles to eliminate the incentive to commit an offense with no risk of incarceration. Another would require the state to develop a central database of arrests, convictions, and sentencing information for those who commit motor vehicle thefts. This would give law enforcement officials a valuable tool to get ahead of criminals before offenders strike again.
Statewide, 14,000 vehicles were reported stolen through November—a 9% increase from last year and a 41% increase over 2020. Many of these vehicles are considered high-end (valued at $30,000 or more) and are stolen and shipped to other countries, led by a criminal network of individuals. However, over 10,000 cases of motor vehicle theft are considered too minor to warrant a second-degree crime. This is why we also introduced Assembly Bill 4019, which would make it a second-degree crime to commit certain types of motor vehicle theft if the value of the stolen goods exceeded $25,000. Currently, if the value of the theft is $75,000 or more, it is considered a second-degree crime.
While the bills considered were a modest but crucial first step in improving our constituents' quality of life, they do not fully address their concerns. Nonetheless, we are pleased that the committee passed them and will support their implementation. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the legislature to address the increased level of auto thefts and home invasions affecting communities and will continue pushing for legislation that addresses these issues."