RELEASE: Gottheimer Questions U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas About New Jersey’s Surge in Car Thefts, Illegal Exports Through Port

Mayorkas Agrees to Finally Address Illegal Vehicle Exports at Port Newark. Mayorkas on Car Theft: “Clearly a Homeland Security Issue.”

 

Above: Gottheimer questioning DHS Secretary Mayorkas during the House Homeland Security Committee hearing.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) questioned U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas about actions the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is taking to help local, county, and state law enforcement combat the unprecedented spike in car thefts and stolen cars from being illegally exported through our ports.

Video of Gottheimer’s questions and Mayorkas’ testimony can be found here.

This comes four months after Gottheimer originally urged DHS to take action, as well as multiple calls for assistance and multiple invitations to make public any action being taken to improve port security or tackle illegal exports. DHS had refused to provide an update.

Now, Secretary Mayorkas finally agreed to address the surge in car thefts and admitted that this is “clearly a homeland security issue.” 

Auto thefts nationwide were up 16.5% in 2021. Last year in New Jersey, there were more than 14,000 vehicles reported stolen — a shocking 22% increase compared to 2020. Year after year, these crimes continue to grow. So far, there has been a 19% increase through the first eight months of 2022 compared to last year. In 2022, Bergen County has seen a 54% increase in car thefts.

“I believe DHS must do more to crackdown. However, I’m concerned this issue is not being addressed in an urgent manner from the department. Mr. Secretary, despite repeated efforts, officials from DHS have refused to answer my questions or publicly speak out on what measures are being taken in response to these alarming numbers of stolen vehicles taken to our ports,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee. “Clearly this is a serious issue. Can I ask you, Mr. Secretary, do you think this is a serious issue? Why aren’t you communicating more to the public? Why aren't you taking more serious steps and what is your plan there?”

In July 2022, Gottheimer urged the Administration to create a new National Auto Theft Task Force to coordinate federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts focused on combating interstate and international carjacking and auto theft. Gottheimer also urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to boost security at ports to intercept more stolen cars before they are loaded into containers and shipped overseas.

Earlier this month, Josh Gottheimer joined with local and state law enforcement officials at Port Newark to demand more action from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help local, county, and state law enforcement combat the unprecedented spike in car thefts and stolen cars from being illegally exported through our ports.

Gottheimer has called for the following federal action:

  • For the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to engage with the public and answer questions about stolen vehicles being illegally exported overseas through Port Newark.
  • For DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to set up a national task force to coordinate with state, county, and local law enforcement, including the port police, to combat illegal exports of stolen cars.
  • For DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and other agencies within DHS to immediately strengthen law enforcement presence, increase port security, and improve inspections at ports.
  • For both the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the international illicit financing angle of these crimes to help follow the money, whether domestically or overseas.

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