HOLMDEL, NJ — An ordinance to establish “aggressive new regulations to aid in our fight against car thefts in Holmdel” has been introduced by the Township Committee.
Under the proposal, unauthorized persons peering into cars parked in driveways, testing the doors or checking to see if a key fob is inside could face municipal penalties.
This is all part of an effort by towns – and the state – to control the car thefts that continue to plague New Jersey communities.
Holmdel Deputy Mayor DJ Luccarelli and Committeeman Rocco Impreveduto made the following statement:
“Our police department has done an extraordinary job battling against this crisis – and we want to commend Chief (Frank) Allocco and the entire team as they work tirelessly to protect our residents. But, as many of you know, new statewide mandates (a reference to bail reform) have limited their ability to fully stem the tide. Simply put, something had to be done,” they said in a joint statement.
They said that, in conjunction with the police department’s efforts – and in coordination with town counsel and police leadership – the committee has “found a way in which Holmdel Township can take a harder stance against these bad actors striking fear into our community.”
They referred to the ordinance establishing Section 3-17 titled “Motor Vehicle Protection Regulations” introduced Tuesday night.
The proposed ordinance would make the following acts in Holmdel illegal:
“Entering or remaining on any driveway, paved surface, or location within 20 feet of a stationary motor vehicle, knowing that he or she is not licensed or privileged to enter or remain in said location, and committing any of the following acts”:
- Peering into a window of a motor vehicle that the person does not own or have license or privilege to possess.
- Pulling a door handle or taking an action in an attempt to open or unlock a motor vehicle that the person does not own or have license or privilege to possess
- Or possessing an electronic device that is capable of determining if an electronic key is located inside a motor vehicle.
These violations will be punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and imprisonment of 90 days – the most severe penalties the township can exact, the township said.
“We will continue to work closely with our police department to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support them and protect the health, safety, and welfare of our residents,” the committeemen said in the statement.
Marlboro Township recently adopted a local ordinance that would similarly impose local fines and potential jail time for those trespassing to even touch cars that are not their property.
To deter criminals from trying to steal cars, Mayor Jonathan Hornik proposed the town ordinance to levy local penalties for anyone who trespasses on private property for the purpose of stealing a motor vehicle. It was approved Nov. 10.
“Let the word get out. … stealing vehicles comes with consequences in Marlboro,” he said at the time of the introduction.
And at the state level, Gov. Phil Murphy earlier this month proposed stronger penalties for car theft.
New Jersey officials reported 14,320 car thefts in 2021 — a 22 percent increase over the prior year. So far this year, 13,849 vehicle thefts have been reported, according to State Police.
The state has made progress on preventing car thefts, according to Murphy. Auto thefts in September fell 12 percent from September 2021 and decreased 12 percent in October, compared to that time last year.
But Murphy encouraged the State Legislature to take further actions by, among other measures:
- Establishing a persistent auto theft offender statute, which would give state and local prosecutors the option to seek more serious criminal consequences for those who have been repeatedly found guilty of stealing cars.
- Investing in enhanced pretrial services to reduce the risk from individuals who are awaiting trial.
Concerns about the “revolving door” of those accused of car thefts who are allowed to leave custody under state bail reform laws has been a sore point for many local law enforcement authorities.
In 2017, Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, signed bail reform into law. This law eliminated cash bail for many crimes, under the argument that innocent people were being held in jail for days, simply because they could not pay bail. Only those accused of the most serious crimes such as murder, aggravated assault and sex assault could be held in jail until trial.
However, in the years since, many New Jersey law enforcement authorities have come to criticize bail reform, saying that people they arrest for stealing a car or breaking into a home are often let out of jail that very same day.
“The process of catch and release must end,” Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden has said.