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It's Time For A Bail Reform Fix

Concerned residents drilled Gov. Phil Murphy for a full hour during his “Ask the Governor” television show on News 12 New Jersey on Sept. 13. He dodged questions related to the state’s new sex education standards and higher health care premiums paid by the state, county and local government employees, but one answer really took the cake.

Near the bottom of the hour, news anchor Eric Landskroner raised arguably the most significant escalating crisis hitting Monmouth County residents today: the rising level of car thefts, home invasions, and other heinous and violent crimes.

Murphy’s immediate response was to lecture drivers for opening an invitation to become victims. “By the way, don’t leave your key fob in the car,” he said.

This could have been a moment when the governor lived up to his talk about having our backs, but he let us down. We are sick of hearing the same rhetoric over and over from politicians who could actually do something to address the problem.

Preventative measures help but don’t put the responsibility back on law-abiding residents when you should be holding criminals responsible. Stop blaming our constituents and start protecting them.

We called attention to this issue three months ago in this very column. The problem has only gotten worse, even reaching Murphy’s own backyard – almost literally. On Sept. 11, thieves tried to break into his next-door neighbor’s garage and steal a Land Rover in broad daylight. Luckily the neighbor was spared from becoming yet another statistic.

More than 14,300 vehicles were reported stolen in New Jersey last year, according to the State Police. This year, the state has already seen more than 9,000, and officials predict as many as 17,000 by year’s end. Half of those arrested were later arrested again for new crimes.

Clearly, the responsibility goes beyond drivers who accidentally leave a fob in their vehicle.

We have proposed numerous pieces of legislation to keep thieves behind bars and off our streets. Our bill package is just one of many solutions proposed by our colleagues to fix the 2017 bail reform law, which handcuffs law enforcement and puts criminals back on our streets.

“I don’t think this is bail reform, and people will take shots at me for that,” Murphy said about our proposals that night. That’s unfortunate and just plain wrong.

Murphy’s public relations campaign won’t work so long as the revolving door of catch-and-release keeps turning. We need tougher penalties for brazen criminals threatening our safety and security.

Allowing thieves to steal a car, be arrested, and get released the next day is irresponsible and dangerous. How long are we to wait before someone is killed or seriously injured?

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