A package of bipartisan bills to crack down on auto crimes in New Jersey is moving closer to becoming a law.
A state Senate panel advanced eight bipartisan bills on Monday.
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They include increasing penalties for carjacking, increasing penalties for repeat offenders and increasing penalties for juveniles who commit auto crimes.
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“I think there needs to be very real and harsh consequences and these bills do take a step in the right direction,” said Republican state Sen. Mike Testa.
Antonne “Tone” Henshaw, of the Transformative Justice Initiative, spoke at the State House this week regarding the bills.
“I was 13 … when I first learned how to steal my first car,” Henshaw said. “If you couldn’t get a car in 10 seconds or less you were not good.”
Henshaw’s heyday of car theft was in the 1980s, before he went to prison for 30 years for murder. Now he works with Rutgers University on a restorative justice project.
“The young guy from Newark or Paterson, Jersey City or Camden, he’s not getting that $15,000,” said Henshaw. “It is somebody else who sees the value in that, that counts on the desperation of the young people.”
Some Republican lawmakers in New Jersey have criticised Democrats for not doing enough to stop crime in the state.“I think it’s a response from a party that’s been soft on crime. For a very long time,” said Testa.
Testa voted no on the bill to increase penalties for juveniles. But only because he says that juveniles were not going to be hit with fines in addition to jail time.
“It’s unfortunate to me that we continue to sort of blame the victims here and we’re sort of being sympathetic to the individuals who are committing crimes,” Testa said.