New Jersey lawmakers seek stiffer penalties for juvenile car thieves

TRENTON, N.J. – The number of car thefts and car thefts by juveniles is on the rise across New Jersey and lawmakers who blame bail reform and relaxed policing directives by the Attorney General’s Office are seeking to implement harsher penalties for juvenile car thieves.

From 2020 to 2022, car thefts increased by about 34%. New Jersey State Police estimate that more than 15,600 cars were stolen last year. They also report that car theft rings are paying minors to participate in the crimes, because juveniles face less serious charges if caught.

Multiple bills by Assemblywoman Vicky Flynn and Assemblyman Ned Thomson seek to reverse that trend.

“New Jersey cannot properly address the increase in car thefts without discussing the impact of bail reform or the recruitment of juveniles to carry out crimes,” Vicky Flynn (R-Monmouth) said. “Right now, car thieves know that this administration is simply slapping them on the wrist, so they are willing to go out and commit more crimes. New Jersey needs to take a tougher approach to protect residents from becoming victims and young people from a life of crime.”

“New Jersey needs to rework the justice system, because it is supporting career criminals and doing little to keep kids from repeating a cycle that will ultimately land them in jail,” Thomson (R-Monmouth) said.  “The state must empower the courts to put a stop to the revolving door of car thieves.”

In the first piece of legislation, a court could order a juvenile to a home detention program if he or she had committed a motor vehicle theft.

A second measure rolls back bail reform by retaining defendants charged with or convicted of multiple auto thefts within 30 days of being charged. Currently, a criminal court can order a defendant to be detained only while awaiting trial if they are a flight risk, a danger to the community, or likely to obstruct criminal proceedings, or if they are found to be a flight risk, danger to the community.

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