RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New Legislation to Combat Organized Auto Theft

Apr 05, 2024
Press

Tours NJ State Police Real Time Crime Center

Helps Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Crack Down on Auto Theft

Above: Gottheimer touring the New Jersey State Police Real Time Crime Center.

NEWARK, NJ — Today, April 5, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer announced new legislation, the Combatting Auto Robbery at the Source — or CARS Act — to re-establish a National Auto Theft Bureau (NATB).  

The NATB would facilitate increased information sharing and collaboration between local, state, and federal law enforcement to better combat sophisticated, multistate and multinational auto theft rings. The bipartisan legislation is co-sponsored by former NYPD Detective, Congressman Anthony D’Esposito (NY-4).

Gottheimer also toured the New Jersey State Police Real Time Crime Center. This state-of-the-art facility unites the flow of information among state, county, and local law enforcement by distributing information in real time on auto thefts and crime.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

“I believe, based on what we saw today and what law they’ve told me, the CARS Act will truly be a game-changer for law enforcement, our communities, and families. If we make the right investments into tracking theft and training, our law enforcement can do even more to stop organized auto criminals,” said Congressman Gottheimer (NJ-5). “To our law enforcement and the victims of auto theft here in Jersey, know that I stand with you. I want to make sure you get the support you need — both from Congress and federal law enforcement.”

“This bill giving us a true clearinghouse on specifically car thefts is really going to help us solve these crimes and get these criminals off the streets…We’re looking forward to this initiative,” said Pat Colligan, President of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association. “Congressman Gottheimer has been an absolute asset to those of us in law enforcement in combating these major issues. He’s never not picked up the phone, and he’s never not offered a solution to some of the problems that we face in law enforcement in New Jersey.”

“Everybody is talking about auto theft,” said Wayne Blanchard, President of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association. “The statistics are alarming. It is an absolute epidemic. We’re proud to stand and support the CARS Act here today with the State Troopers Fraternal Association, our colleagues in law enforcement, and most importantly, one of our biggest supporters, Congressman Gottheimer. This bill gives our men and women the tools it needs – the intelligence, training, prevention, and always most important, funding…to go out and make New Jersey a safer place.”

“The State Troopers’ NCO Association is always proud to stand with Congressman Gottheimer. He stands for us and brings commonsense approaches or solutions to various issues we face everyday,” said Dan Oliveira, President of the State Trooper Non-Commissioned Officers Association (STNCOA). “The CARS Act goes further to come up with a rational solution to an issue now growing in the state of New Jersey: automobile theft.”

The Auto Theft Challenge in New Jersey:

  • Auto theft in Jersey has ballooned in recent years. The number of stolen vehicles jumped 20% between 2020 and 2021 and has increased by at least 5% year over year since then. 
  • According to the New Jersey State Police, more than 3,000 cars in Jersey have been reported stolen so far in 2024 – an average of 36 stolen cars a day. More than 16,000 cars were stolen last year.
  • North Jersey has seen a particularly large surge in auto theft: in 2022, Bergen County saw a 50 percent increase in stolen vehicles.
  • According to the FBI, auto theft increased by 11% nationally and 38% in the Northeast in 2023. The nearly one million vehicles stolen in the United States last year were worth more than $20 billion.
  • According to the New Jersey State Police, there have been 53 carjackings so far this year, including disturbing cases in Edison and Totowa.

Gottheimer’s New, Bipartisan Legislation,  the CARS Act, will: 

  • Reinstate the National Auto Theft Bureau as a national clearinghouse for auto theft data.
    • This will help our local, state, and federal law enforcement share information in real time. 
  • Provide training, resources and recommendations to private industry, the public, and law enforcement agencies on how to combat auto theft, including but not limited to specific designs that make a car more vulnerable to theft and online trends regarding auto theft.
  • Deliver grants to law enforcement agencies around the country to improve information sharing and implement best practices that have already been proven to mitigate car theft.

Gottheimer also highlighted his longtime efforts to fully equip law enforcement and crack down on auto theft. In April 2023, he convened a roundtable with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Port Newark leadership, and state and local law enforcement on collaborative efforts to combat the surge in auto theft and carjacking. He previously held a roundtable with local law enforcement on the broader increase in burglaries and thefts, including the epidemic of burglary rings. In 2022, he demanded that DHS step up their enforcement against interstate and international carjacking and auto theft, which has resulted in new federal, state, and local operations to recover stolen vehicles.

Gottheimer was joined by President of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Pat Colligan, Executive Vice President of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association Peter Andreyev, President of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association Wayne Blanchard, President of the State Trooper Non-Commissioned Officers Association (STNCOA) Dan Oliveira, and New Jersey State Police Investigations Branch Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel John Brennan.

Below: Gottheimer touring the New Jersey State Police Real Time Crime Center.

Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I hope that everyone is safe following this morning’s earthquake. It’s an honor to join our brave men and women of law enforcement at the NJSP’s Corr-Stat Real Time Crime Center. The staff here at the Real Time Crime Center — and all of our New Jersey State and local police — do incredible work everyday on the front lines to prevent and respond to some of the most complex, challenging crimes happening in our state.

I just toured their facility, and it was incredible to see the tremendous amount of innovation happening here in Newark. Public safety is a challenge that requires constant vigilance and real collaboration. I will always get the backs of our law enforcement officers and all first responders as they keep our communities safe. 

Before I begin, I want to take a minute to quickly discuss the developments this week on our fight against the Congestion Tax. You probably saw that the lawsuits challenging the Congestion Tax that many of us have been working on for months finally saw their first days in court. 

These are the New Jersey lawsuits focused on the federal government’s rubber stamp of New York and the MTA’s plan. The suits coming out of New York, including Staten Island, the teachers, and the NAACP, will be heard next month.   

There were real questions raised this week about the MTA’s own admissions in their submissions to the federal government on the Congestions Tax. The MTA admitted that because of the change in traffic patterns, the Congestion Tax will lead to more cancer-causing pollution in Northern New Jersey and in the Outer Boroughs. More trucks will avoid the Congestion Tax zone and back up at the GW Bridge, and more cars back up at the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. 

New York has already agreed to fork over $150 million or more to the Bronx to help them remediate the pollution for their children and families. They aren’t doing anything for Jersey families or the other outer boroughs. 

This issue, of course, doesn’t deal with the insane cost of the Congestion Tax on hardworking families – at least $15 dollars a day and an extra $4,000/year for daily commuters – that’s after taxes. You can imagine how much that will crush teachers, nurses, cops, electricians, you name it. The MTA also didn’t admit what we all know – that it’s just a shameless cash grab for the worst run mass transit agency in the country that was found just again, this week, by the Citizens Budget Commission of New York that the MTA lost $700 million last year to fare skippers, and blew a billion dollars on a poorly designed 2nd avenue subway stop. 

Despite their thousands of hours of public comments, the MTA has stuck their head in the sand. They have refused to answer questions from my office for more than 120 days about their financial projections of the Congestion Tax – just how much money will they raise? They have refused to make their case about the Congestion Tax in the court of public opinion.

Well, the MTA can’t hide anymore. Finally, these hardworking families and commuters are getting their day in court.

Now, to what brings us here this morning. I want to call attention to one of the greatest public safety threats facing our families in Jersey, the region, and in far too many parts of the country: the scourge of organized auto theft.

Over the last few years, I’ve heard regularly from my constituents, local elected officials, and our law enforcement partners about the significant spike in auto theft.  During this time, I’ve met regularly with law enforcement to get briefed and discuss what we can do to address the issue.  I’ve held public safety education events with law enforcement.  Last year, I held a roundtable discussion with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, leadership at Port Newark, and state and local police on their work to combat auto theft and carjackings here in Jersey. 

Thanks to their work and leadership, we have made progress, but there is still more work to do. Today, I’m excited to announce new bipartisan legislation in Congress, the CARS Act or Combatting Auto Robbery at the Source Act, to help thwart auto theft in Jersey communities.  The CARS Act will help us coordinate real-time information sharing, develop and disseminate smart, effective solutions, and give state and local police departments the resources they need to help reduce auto thefts. 

The legislation is cosponsored by my friend and colleague from New York, Representative Anthony D’Esposito, a former NYPD detective, who understands this public safety threat all too well.

Let’s make one thing clear at the top. Auto theft isn’t just an urban crime. Our state’s law enforcement — including those in the suburbs and rural areas — are also working overtime to capture thieves. The thieves aren’t just bored local teenagers looking for a joyride. They’re often career criminals, tied to multistate and international crime rings. In fact, stolen cars regularly end up all around the world — in Africa, South America, and more. We’re dealing with a sophisticated machine that has gotten auto theft down to a science. 

Auto theft in Jersey has ballooned in recent years. The number of stolen vehicles jumped more than 40% since 2020 and increased each year. So far in 2024, more than 3,000 cars in Jersey have been reported stolen. That’s on top of more than 16,000 last year. Right now, in Jersey, we’re averaging about thirty-six stolen cars a day. By my math, the State Police will probably receive another stolen vehicle report before we finish today’s event. My district is being hit especially hard — in 2022, Bergen County saw a fifty percent increase in stolen vehicles.

We’re in the nation’s epicenter when it comes to auto theft. According to the FBI, auto theft increased by eleven percent nationally and thirty-eight percent in the Northeast in 2023. The nearly one million vehicles stolen in the United States last year were worth more than twenty billion dollars. That’s billion with a b. 

Stolen cars have become a big business for gangs and cartels. These cars aren’t being flipped on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace – they’re systematically broken down and sold. About eighty percent are chopped up for parts. Chop shops help explain why we’re specifically seeing a surge in the theft of catalytic converters. These little devices, which control the exhaust coming out of cars, are worth hundreds or even thousands on the street market. 

The other twenty percent or so of stolen cars are brought to ports to be sent overseas. Crime begets crime, as the revenue from these cars can help gangs buy drugs and weapons — either here in the U.S. or abroad. 

We can also thank TikTok — on top of the disinformation and propaganda it spews — for making it easier to steal cars. Someone figured out how to hotwire Kia and Hyundai cars with a screwdriver and a USB cable. That information went viral on TikTok — and a group of troublemakers known as the “Kia Boyz” have shot to online stardom for broadcasting their thefts online. It’s ridiculous.

Auto theft is a complex, costly problem, but I don’t just want to focus on dollars and cents. Car theft can be paralyzing for hardworking Jersey families that don’t live near public transit and rely on their vehicle to get to work, school, and doctor’s appointments. These criminals aren’t just breaking windows and stealing cars either. We’re also seeing worrisome cases of car theftescalating into carjacking and home invasion.

According to the New Jersey State Police, there have been fifty-three carjackings so far this year in our state, including two on Thursday.

Just last month in Edison, a shopper at the Patel Brothers grocery store was dragged out of his car by a group of masked robbers. Around the same time, thieves broke into a home in Howell in search of car key fobs while the family slept inside. The homeowner had to chase off the thieves with a gun. And, in February, a mother and her one-year-old were carjacked in broad daylight in Totowa. The thief reportedly told the mother, “Just take your son and leave.” Cars can be replaced, but the scars and memories that result from these violent robberies take a real toll.

When I spoke with law enforcement last year, they emphasized the importance of working together, and coordinating, at all levels of government, from federal to state to county to local, to fight back against auto theft. Given how sophisticated these criminal gangs can be, and how fast they move from one city and state to another, it will take a joint effort and real-time information sharing within states and between states to stop them. 

That’s exactly what the CARS Act does. It will help our federal, state, and local officers join forces and address the car theft crisis, once and for all.

The bipartisan CARS Act will re-establish a National Auto Theft Bureau or NATB at the Department of Justice. Believe it or not, the NATB was first organized as a nonprofit over a century ago — back in 1912 — to help coordinate our country’s response to auto theftand better equip law enforcement to deal with the organized thieves stealing cars. In other words, this isn’t a new problem. In the early 1990s, the NATB morphed into the larger National Insurance Crimes Bureau or NICB. To this day, the NCIB helps law enforcement fight auto theft – and combat all kinds of other crimes, including insurance fraud, cyber attacks, financial schemes, and more.

While the NICB does great work, with car thefts on the rise, our country’s auto theft challenge requires a specialized, singularly focused response. We need to get back to basics. I’m confident that a new Auto Theft Bureau is a key part of the answer because it’s worked for our country before. Back in the 1970s and 80s, when auto theft was spiking around the country, the National Auto TheftBureau helped implement LoJack, which made it easier to track stolen vehicles. The Bureau also encouraged auto manufacturers to stamp serial numbers on car parts, helping law enforcement track and return these parts when they showed up in chop shops. 

These initiatives led by the Bureau resulted in a seven percent decrease in car theft in New York in 1979 alone. And, if you were around New York, the country’s auto theft capital, in the 70s and early 80s, you’d know just how impressive that reduction was. So, it’s just common sense to bring back an organization that has a history of truly making a difference combatting car thefts – and is focused on just that.

The CARS Act will give the National Auto Theft Bureau three important mandates.

First, the new National Auto Theft Bureau — or NATB — will act as a national clearinghouse for auto theft data, helping our local, state, and federal law enforcement share information in real time. The police here with me today would tell you that their existing information sharing collaboration with New York City and Philadelphia are key to busting thieves. The CARS Act will scale this information sharing model nationally – and, as I’ve heard directly from law enforcement, these crime rings are national. 

Second, the NATB will provide training, resources and recommendations to private industry, the public, and law enforcement agencies on how to combat auto theft. The Bureau will work with car manufacturers to spot vulnerabilities and prevent another TikTok trend that causes a spike in auto theft.

Finally, we need to make sure our local and state police have the resources they need to keep our communities safe from auto theft. My bill will provide grants to agencies in Jersey and around the country to improve information sharing and implement best practices that have been proven to work.

I believe, based on what we saw today and what law they’ve told me, the CARS Act will truly be a game-changer for law enforcement, our communities, and families. If we make the right investments into tracking theft and training, our law enforcement can do even more to stop organized auto criminals.

To our law enforcement and the victims of auto theft here in Jersey, know that I stand with you. I want to make sure you get the support you need — both from Congress and federal law enforcement.

For years, I’ve called on the federal government to step up. I’ve urged the Department of Homeland Security, specifically Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to do more in stopping the stream of cars to our ports and out of our country.

I even spoke directly to Secretary Mayorkas about increasing security at our port. I also encouraged CBP to keep up their good work in cracking down on the international crime bosses driving auto theft.  

Until we cut off the head of the snake, the criminal masterminds here in the U.S. and overseas, we will never truly succeed in shutting down this massive criminal ring. 

We took an important step in the right direction this fall. In September, federal, state, and local law enforcement in Hudson County responded, working together to recover seven vehicles destined for West Africa, worth nearly $400,000. We can’t let these criminals keep profiting. The National Auto Theft Bureau will make it easier to coordinate and execute these important missions. 

The incredible team here at the Real Time Crime Center shows us that we must work together to keep our communities safe. Imagine how effective our fight against car thieves would be if we could scale this model nationally – with the help of federal investment. This whole-of-government, coordinated approach would be transformative for our hardworking state and local law enforcement.

When it comes to law enforcement, lowering crime rates across the country, and combating car thefts, you need to invest to protect.

By joining forces in the fight against car theft, I know here, in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us. 

Thank you, God bless our law enforcement, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

###

Recent Posts


May 29, 2024
Press

RELEASE: Gottheimer Demands Transparency and Action from USPS Leadership Regarding Lafayette Post Office

Above: Gottheimer calling on USPS to reestablish its post office in Lafayette. LAFAYETTE, NJ — Yesterday, May 28, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) called on United States Postal Service leadership to uphold its pledge to reestablish a post office in Lafayette, New Jersey, five years after they suspended operations. Since USPS’s 2019 decision to close […]



May 28, 2024
Press

RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces New Federally-Backed Grant Program for Broadband in Sussex County

Below: Gottheimer announcing new federal investments for broadband. NEWTON, NJ — Today, May 28, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced new federal investment secured for New Jersey to ensure that every family has access to high- quality, high-speed, affordable internet. The new $50 million federal investment will be made available through the New Jersey Broadband […]



May 27, 2024
Press

PHOTO RELEASE: Gottheimer Honors Memorial Day & America’s Fallen Heroes at Bergenfield Parade

Above: Gottheimer marching in the Bergenfield Memorial Day Parade. BERGENFIELD, NJ — Today, May 27, 2024, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) marched in the Bergenfield Memorial Day Parade to honor all those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our great country while serving in our nation’s military. Below: Gottheimer honoring Memorial Day today in Bergenfield. ###