In Brief

GOP lawmakers aim to increase punishment for car thieves

By: - May 3, 2022 7:00 am

Assemblyman Gerard Scharfenberger and Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn (R-Monmouth) plan to introduce a bill to crack down on car thieves. (Photo courtesy of their office)

Two Monmouth County Republicans plan to introduce legislation this week to toughen penalties against some car thieves, saying “liberal, failed policies” have “tied police hands” and led to rising rates of car theft.

Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn and Assemblyman Gerard Scharfenberger announced their plans after acting Attorney General Matt Platkin announced Friday the state is reversing a new policy that had barred police from initiating pursuits of suspected car thieves.

Flynn and Scharfenberger sent Platkin a letter about two weeks ago objecting to the old pursuit policy and asking for a meeting. In an interview with the New Jersey Monitor, they also complained that bail reform “puts criminals out on the street before the ink is dry on the police report.”

They cheered Platkin’s decision to loosen the policy, but said legislative action is needed to really reduce car thefts and burglaries. While some car thieves are opportunists, they said, many are organized rings. They plan to introduce a bill that would require mandatory minimum sentences for car thieves who:

  • recruit youth to steal cars
  • break into cars — and then use garage door openers to burglarize the car owner’s home
  • place tracking devices on cars to facilitate their theft

Data wasn’t immediately available to show if and how often any of the above scenarios occur in New Jersey. Canadian police warned motorists in December that thieves were placing trackers on high-end vehicles in public parking lots and then tracking the vehicles to their home driveways to more easily steal them.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.

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