ALLENDALE, NJ — Stepping away from his parked car to run a simple errand, Matthew Mazon, of Franklin Lakes, left his key fob inside, not thinking much of it. But when he came back a few minutes later, the car was gone, and the stolen vehicle was not found until two weeks later in Newark.
Mazon's story is familiar for a lot of New Jersey residents in the past few weeks, including three in Old Tappan last week, and, in response, Rep. Josh Gottheimer held a press conference on Tuesday issuing a call to federal authorities to address the surge.
"I have heard week after week, story after story, of people brazenly going up to people's homes and stealing their cars," Gottheimer said. "We need to crack down on carjacking and car theft, and we gotta do it now."
Just this year alone, more than 8,300 vehicles have been reported stolen across the state, a 25% increase over the same six-month time frame last year, Allendale Police Chief Michael Dillon said at the conference.
"Without collaborative action by all levels of law enforcement and government, this issue is not going away," Dillon said.
This is why, Gottheimer said, he is calling on the Biden administration to form a national task force to coordinate efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement to combat auto theft, not only in New Jersey, but nationwide.
"This whole-of-government approach and coordination will provide valuable crime-fighting information to our hard-working state and local officers," Gottheimer said. "We need federal-level resources and attention to put an end to these reckless and often violent crimes that aren't just occurring in New Jersey but across the country."
Car thefts, Gottheimer added, often occur in the state for one of two reasons: to commit more crimes or sell them in overseas markets through the port of Newark or elsewhere.
As such, Gottheimer is also asking the Department of Homeland Security to "beef up" security at the ports to recover stolen cars before they are shipped overseas, and the Departments of Treasury and Justice to track stolen cars that might get shipped, in order to "follow the money" funneled to international crime rings.
He said, in the words of Chief Dillon, that law enforcement and the government need to "cut off the head of the snake," which, in this case, are the ring leaders.
"I will be sending a letter to (President Joe Biden) and (the heads of these departments) urging them to take immediate federal action on this issue putting our families in danger and threatening the safety of our communities," Gottheimer said.