In response to a dramatic surge in car thefts across New Jersey, State Attorney General Matt Platkin announced today that he is reversing a policy that prevented police officers from pursuing stolen cars. In late 2021, Platkin effected a statewide policy that prohibited police from chasing a stolen car unless they suspected it had been used in the most serious of crimes, such as murder, vehicular homicide or kidnapping. Thus, the A.G.’s policy prohibited police from pursuing a car simply because it had been stolen.

NJ Vehicle Thefts

Source: https://www.nj.gov/nj/safety/features/crimedata.html

After scores of stolen vehicles, and complaints from citizens, local government officials and police, Platkin relented to now permit police to chase a car they think has been stolen.

Last year, Platkin said he wanted to limit police chases because high-speed car chases are dangerous, and can put police officers and innocent drivers alike at risk. It was part of an overhaul led by Governor Murphy to reduce the use of force by police. However, with motor vehicle thefts up 127% from last January state officials recognized that the policy needed to be changed.

In addition, Platkin and Gov. Murphy announced that the state would use $10 million in American Rescue Plan funds to purchase automated license plate recognition technology. The funds will allow local police departments to purchase high-speed, automated camera systems that capture and store computer-readable images of license plates. These license-plate readers will be placed at “strategic locations throughout” towns and the N.J. State Police will also deploy cameras along major highways.

According to the Attorney General’s office, the most commonly stolen luxury vehicles are BMW X6, Land Rover Range Rover Sport, Audi Q5 and BMW X3.

The top vehicles stolen statewide in 2022 include Honda Accord, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda CR-V, BMW X5 and BMW 3-Series.

High speed chases are dangerous to the officers involved, as well as innocent drivers and pedestrians that may be injured when the stolen vehicle or the police crash. Police must use common sense, as well as policy guidelines, in their pursuits. More often than not, a stolen vehicle is just that – stolen – not a car being used to commit a serious felony. Many high end cars are stolen from wealthy suburbs because the owners negligently leave the keys in their car in their driveway or unlocked garage. Others are left running at convenience stores while their owners run in for a quick purchase. These types of thefts are crimes of opportunity and can be easily eliminated. Other car thefts involve use of force, specialized electronic equipment or fraudulent schemes that obtain access to vehicles that are much more difficult to combat.

Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers have extensive experience representing individuals charged with federal and state felonies. To contact the firm’s NJ office, call 908.301.9001 and to contact the firm’s NYC office, call 212.755.3300, or email Mr. Stahl at rstahl@stahlesq.com.