Programs

Tackling Auto Theft

Tackling Auto Theft

Tackling Auto Theft

The Office of the Attorney General has taken a comprehensive approach to combating the rise in auto theft, including enforcement efforts in cooperation with our law enforcement partners across New Jersey, improving technology, and promoting public awareness.

Targeting Auto Theft Offenders

Strengthening criminal penalties for auto theft offenders. The Attorney General’s Office worked with Governor Murphy and the Legislature to see legislation enacted in July 2023 that strengthened the criminal penalties for auto theft offenders, particularly for persistent, repeat offenders and large-scale automobile trafficking networks. Since then, the Department worked with our law enforcement partners to raise awareness of the new statutes and to utilize  them in investigations and prosecutions state-wide. This intelligence-based approach built upon 2022’s investment in Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) and expanded law enforcement cooperation through the Auto Theft Task Force (ATTF). 

 

Tackling Auto Theft

As a result, thefts of non-Hyundai and Kia vehicles, which contain a known security vulnerability exploited by thieves, were down 10% in 2023 compared to 2022. Reducing auto thefts remains a focus of our efforts in 2024. Our initiatives include our “Lock it or Lose It” public awareness media campaign to empower vehicle owners, especially Kia and Hyundai owners, to take proactive measures to secure their vehicles from security vulnerabilities leading to thefts.

Shutting down “chop shop” operations. In June, Attorney General Platkin, NJSP, and the Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) announced charges against 14 individuals in the takedown of alleged “chop shop” operations linked to the theft of more than 35 vehicles throughout the state. The charges were the result of a five-month investigation conducted by NJSP, with assistance from DCJ, Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, PPD, and other federal, county, and local law enforcement agencies. The defendants were charged in connection with four “chop shops” that allegedly functioned as towing and mechanic businesses by  day but, during off hours, were used to alter and disassemble stolen vehicles for resale or to be sold as parts. Six stolen motor vehicles, numerous components from stolen vehicles, key fobs, stolen license plates, and electronic devices linked to the alleged chop shop operations were recovered. Also recovered were an
assault rifle, heroin, marijuana, a kilo press, which is commonly used to process controlled dangerous substances, and United States currency believed to be the proceeds from criminal activity.

Prosecuting individuals through the Auto Theft Task Force. In April, Attorney General Platkin, the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor (OIFP), and the NJSP announced a three-year prison term for a man convicted of illegally possessing a weapon in connection with an auto theft investigation conducted by ATTF. The initial arrest stemmed from an ATTF investigation. At the time of his arrest, the defendant was in a stolen 2019 Lamborghini Urus, valued at $265,500, and had an unregistered loaded handgun.

Investing in technology to combat auto theft and violent crime. Attorney General Platkin announced that 34 law enforcement agencies in all 21 counties and the NJSP received grant funding to acquire or expand technology to combat auto theft thanks to $10 million in funding made available by the Murphy Administration. At least one local law enforcement agency in each county across New Jersey received grants ranging from $23,400 to $595,000 to acquire and expand existing ALPR technology systems that utilize high-speed, automated camera networks to capture and store computer-readable images of license plates in a centralized database accessible to law enforcement. The grants are the latest investments for combating auto theft in New Jersey and reducing the violent crime it supports.

Educating the Public

Promoting awareness of Kia and Hyundai vulnerabilities. In September, Attorney General Platkin released a video explaining a national social media trend that led to significant increases in thefts of certain Hyundai and Kia-brand vehicles because of a security vulnerability in various models made between 2011 and 2022. Security vulnerabilities in Hyundais and Kias mean they are disproportionately the target of vehicle thefts in New Jersey, and those stolen vehicles are often used to commit violent crimes. The video offered tips on preventing thefts and contacting the manufacturer about the security vulnerabilities.

Tackling Auto Theft

Continuing the “Lock It or Lose It” public awareness campaign. This successful statewide awareness campaign, which aimed at discouraging New Jerseyans from leaving their cars unlocked with the key fob inside was re-launched in 2022 and continued in 2023. The campaign originated in October 2020, when New Jersey first began to see a rise in thefts of high-end vehicles with key fobs left inside and started tracking the nexus between stolen vehicles and violent crime. The program’s simple messaging resonates with drivers and has helped reduce auto thefts.