EWING, NJ (PIX11) — Whether it’s by force, or just because you left your keys behind, cars keep getting stolen in New Jersey.
“We’ve got to get at this,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, adding that thefts have reached epidemic levels.
In a news conference in Ewing, Murphy said theft numbers are up year to date over last year, but in recent months, the state is bending the curve.
“I think together we’re working really well,” said Murphy. “We’ll hopefully be able to not just continue to bend the curve, but bend it meaningfully with further steps.”
More than 14,000 cars were stolen in New Jersey last year, and the state has been on pace to break that number this year. But car thefts in September were down 14 percent from last September, and down 12 percent in October from last October, Murphy said.
He pointed to growth in the State Police Auto Theft Task Force and $10 million in federal funds going to license plate recognition tech.
“That task force, just to date, 148 vehicles recovered this year to date, 7.7 million in estimated value and 71 arrests,” said New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick Callahan. “It’s making a difference.”
Gov. Murphy also announced his support for several bills in Trenton right now to combat auto thefts, saying he would sign them into law if they were to reach his desk.
“I’m calling for the establishment of a new Persistent Auto Theft Offender statute,” said Murphy, “which would give state and local prosecutors the option to seek more serious criminal consequences for those who’ve been repeatedly found guilty of stealing cars.”
Another bill, he said, would make it a crime to possess and distribute special tools to break into cars.
He and the state’s top law enforcement officials are hoping that reducing car thefts leads to a reduction in violent crime.
“I think the rest of the nation, the other 49 states, as they do with many other things, will look to New Jersey and say, ‘how are they doing it? How are they upholding their oath to protect the citizens and their property in this great state?'” said Callahan.