A surge in car thefts and the sale of stolen cars internationally has led Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) to as President Joe Biden to form a national auto theft task force to coordinate local, state and federal law enforcement responses.
Gottheimer also wants the Department of Homeland Security to increase security at the nation’s ports to prevent the transport of stolen vehicles.
New Jersey has seen a surge in car thefts over the last two years, with a 22% increase in reported stolen vehicles in 2021, Gottheimer says. He noted that there has been a 37% increase in car thefts through May 2022 over the first five months of last year.
“This is [a] pervasive problem,” said Gottheimer, flanked by local police officers in Allendale on Tuesday.
Gottheimer also said stolen vehicles are often transported and sold between states and overseas, making it a national and international issue.
“It’s a national, homeland security concern, requiring the involvement of federal law enforcement,” the three-term Democratic congressman said. .
While Gottheimer cited multiple local stories of car theft. he also urged federal action against criminal ring leaders saying the federal government must “cut off the head of the snake.”
“It’s the difference between getting the guy who’s selling the drugs on the street corner, and the big bosses making all the money at the top of the pyramid,” said Gottheimer.
At his announcement, Gottheimer also promoted his own legislation, the Invest to Protect Act and endorsed investments in law enforcement. Gottheimer specifically criticized the movement to defund police and also seemed to reference bail reform proposals, suggesting that criminals must not be allowed to “repeatedly victimize families in Northern New Jersey.”
While there is little hard evidence that progressive criminal justice reforms are responsible for the recent surge in crime, national democrats fear they could still face blowback in the 2022 midterms. Gottheimer told the New Jersey Globe that his focus was on local issues.
“What happens nationally, is a national issue,” he said. “I’m focused on the fifth district of Jersey.”