OCEANSHIP At a news conference Thursday, state Sen. Vin Gopal announced a measure package to combat rising car thefts, including permitting law enforcement to imprison repeat offenders.
Gopal said 14,300 automobiles were stolen in the state through November, up 9% from last year. It’s up 41% from 2020’s record low.
Auto thefts are up 17% nationwide, Gopal added.
Gopal blamed repeat offenders, organized car theft rings, catalytic converter theft rings, and organized youth use for the growth in these offenses, which threaten public safety and strain law enforcement.
Gopal called police officers “God’s labor.
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” “They’re facing decades of bad state policies.”
Senate President Nick Scutari, who joined Gopal, D-Monmouth, at the news conference in Ocean Township, said Gopal has led the search for a solution because his area has been heavily struck by theft. Asbury Park to Freehold Township is Gopal’s 11th District in central Monmouth County.
“We’re scalping many of these adjustments,” Scutari added. “It’s a big bill package, but it targets specific issues. These criminals must be imprisoned, not just punished.”
Gopal said this bill is a temporary fix while the state Legislature considers bail reform. Since 2017, judges in New Jersey have used detention hearings to decide whether to release a suspect before trial.
“That’ll take time and research,” Gopal added. “Hopefully, [this bill] deters persons and lowers the numbers while the state looks at bail reform as a whole.”
Gopal claimed the bill’s provisions would last a year. After expiration, courts must report bill-related detentions.
Gopal also proposed bills to establish theft and receipt of a stolen vehicle as separate offenses, expand penalties for illegal use of a car’s master key, increase penalties for juveniles and adults convicted of car theft and related crimes, and prohibit towing companies from charging auto theft victims for vehicle release.
The senator stated the Senate Judiciary Committee will review all these proposals on Monday.