Senate President Scutari, Law Enforcement Officials Join in Support
Oakhurst – Responding to the surge in auto thefts and related crimes, Senator Vin Gopal today announced the introduction of legislation, S-3385, that would target repeat offenders by establishing a “rebuttable presumption” of pretrial detention for the crime of carjacking, and for the crimes of car theft and burglary where the defendant has a prior conviction or prior pending charge for one of those crimes.
Senate President Nick Scutari joined with Senator Gopal for the announcement, as well as Pat Colligan, President of the New Jersey PBA, Wayne Blanchard, President of the State Troopers Fraternal Association, and area police chiefs.
“Car thefts are nothing new, but the problem has been taken to entirely new levels in recent years,” said Senate President Scutari. “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. It is clear that more has to be done to stop this surge and protect the safety and security of our communities.”
The provisions of the bill would remain in effect for one year after enactment and then expire, as a temporary means of addressing the recent surge in auto thefts. After expiration, courts would be required to report to the Legislature and the Governor on the number of individuals detained under the bill.
“This is a decisive and targeted action to counter auto thefts and related crimes by allowing law enforcement to detain repeat offenders,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “The surge in auto-thefts over the past two years threatens the property and safety of New Jersey residents and places an added strain on law enforcement. These crimes are especially disturbing because they are so close to home. Criminals are burglarizing houses for key fobs, stealing cars right out of people’s driveways and using the vehicles to commit other crimes.”
More than 14,300 vehicles have been stolen in New Jersey through November of this year, up nine percent from the same point last year and up 41 percent from a record low in 2020. The problem is not unique to New Jersey, with auto thefts up 17 percent nationally.
Senator Gopal also authored a series of additional measures to combat motor vehicle thefts, including bills to toughen penalties for car thefts, for repeat offenders and for the illegal use of master keys.
- S-3389 – Establishes crimes of theft of motor vehicle and receiving stolen motor vehicle as separate statutory provisions; provides extended sentences for certain persistent offenders. This bill establishes theft of a motor vehicle and receiving a stolen vehicle as separate offenses, which will facilitate the tracking of motor vehicle theft crimes and help crack down on persistent offenders with extended terms.
- S-3390 – Expands criminal penalties related to illegal use of motor vehicle master key. This bill amends current law to make it a fourth degree crime for a person to knowingly possess for an unlawful purpose a key fob that operates a vehicle owned by another person or possess a computer program commonly used to start a motor vehicle without an ignition key or key fob.
- S-3028 – Increases penalties imposed on juveniles and adults convicted of motor vehicle theft and related crimes. Strengthens penalties for adults and juveniles who commit auto theft crimes and establishes mandatory minimum sentences for adults who recruit juveniles to commit auto theft.
- S-3222 – Prohibits towing companies from requiring the owner of a stolen motor vehicle to pay a fee to release the vehicle from a storage facility. Under this bill, the “Predatory Towing Prevention Act” is amended to prohibit a towing company from charging fees to the owner of a stolen motor vehicle so long as the owner provides a copy of the stolen vehicle police report to the towing company.
All four of these bills will be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.