More than 14,000 cars were stolen in New Jersey in 2021. That set a dubious record that state officials are eager not to repeat. In April, Gov. Phil Murphy announced plans to spend $10 million on an automated license plate reading system to help police track cars that are stolen.
He says that effort is paying off with a 14% drop in auto thefts in September compared to the same month last year. October auto thefts were also down 12% compared to last year. NJ Attorney General Matt Platkin said that translates to 367 fewer cars being stolen in those two months compared to 2021 numbers.
“We are confident that these steps investing directly in law enforcement and empowering them in their work have already had an impact in reversing the increase in car thefts earlier this year,” Murphy said.
“We also know that we must do more to reduce the likelihood of car thefts and hold those who do commit these crimes accountable. Bringing down the number of vehicle thefts will also reduce the occurrence of violent crime, as we know that too often stolen cars are used in shootings and other acts of violence.”
He’s hoping to extend that decline by throwing his support behind a series of bills.
That package includes a measure to enable prosecutors to charge someone as a “persistent auto theft offender,” resulting in more serious punishment for someone repeatedly found guilty of stealing cars. The state would also make it illegal to possess and distribute tools used to steal cars. Another piece would enforce criminal penalties for those found not following state guidelines for the sale and purchase of catalytic converters.
“I’m announcing my support for a series of measures to further combat car theft and which I will sign into law as soon as they are passed and placed on my desk,” Murphy said. “Some versions of these measures have already been introduced, and I’m grateful to the legislators who are focused on confronting this important challenge.”
Murphy’s is also proposing a plan for drivers to choose to allow police to track their vehicle if it’s stolen. The state’s Motor Vehicle Commission would give residents the choice to opt-in to that program when filling out their vehicle registration paperwork.
AG Platkin is hopeful the downward trend for carjacking continues with the help of this new legislation.
“I’m encouraged by these trends, but I thank the governor and the legislature for considering new tools that can help us more effectively combat the rise in auto theft and drive down violent crime,” Platkin said. “I certainly look forward to seeing them progress through the legislature and hopefully get to his desk. And I assure you we will put them to good use.”
Carjackings have been on the rise nationwide in recent years. As of late September, more than 1,000 cars have been stolen in Philadelphia. That’s more than double the number stolen as of that time last year.