08/29/22 | News

OCEAN TOWNSHIP, NJ – Amid a steep rise in auto-thefts statewide, Senator Vin Gopal, D-Long Branch, and Assemblywoman Shanique Speight, D-Newark, have partnered on two bills that would strengthen penalties for car thieves and promote prevention efforts across New Jersey.

“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,” Senator Gopal said. “It’s crucial we begin taking steps to deter car thieves while also providing additional support to the departments and officials working hard to curb this disturbing trend.”

The first of the two bills, which Gopal introduced as S3026 earlier this month, would establish an Automobile Theft Prevention Authority and appropriate $2 million to the new body. Several states have already successfully implemented Automobile Theft Prevention Authorities, which convene law enforcement officers, prosecutors, insurance representatives, and at-large members to discuss best practices, create rules, and coordinate statewide prevention efforts.

“Car thefts are an evolving issue that affects a diverse group of residents and communities in the state, and it’s important New Jersey has flexibility in how it responds,” Gopal said. “An ATPA is a proven model that benefits from the combined expertise of stakeholders and allows the state to mount quick, targeted responses to auto theft developments.”

The second bill, introduced as S3028, would increase penalties for juveniles and adults convicted of auto theft and related crimes, as well as increasing penalties on adults who hire juveniles to commit the crime.

“Many of the thefts we’re seeing in New Jersey are committed by juveniles, and S3028 will help prevent and prosecute those crimes,” Assemblywoman Speight said. “I’m confident the strengthened penalties in this bill are fair, and provide the necessary rehabilitative pathways for juveniles who are involved in automobile thefts to turn their lives around.”

Assemblywoman Speight plans to introduce both bills in the New Jersey Assembly in September.

“I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders to halt the growing prevalence of car thefts in New Jersey throughout the legislative process,” Speight said. “These bills will go a long way toward helping us accomplish that goal.”

Do you support Senator Gopal’s and Assemblywoman Speight’s bills to combat rising auto thefts in New Jersey? You can sign their petition here to support their proposed legislation.