Car theft rings escalate into other crimes at Morris Co., police say

MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – As auto theft and vehicle crime continue to plague New Jersey, members of the various Morris County police departments have issued public safety warnings, alerting all residents of the growing problem.

Law enforcement officials and elected officials have expressed frustration not only at the growing number of thefts, but also at the brazen way in which they are occurring.

Police noted that many of these thefts involve high-end vehicles taken straight from driveways because owners leave them unlocked with the key fob inside.

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“In Morris County, we fight this scourge like we do with almost everything, as a team. We know how dangerous these actors are, we ask that you help by locking your car doors, bringing back your key fobs in your homes and working with your neighbors to report anything that looks suspicious,” Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon said.

At a recent Chatham Township council meeting, local resident Dan Flynn spoke about the growing problem, saying the council and the police need to do more to address it and perhaps even put pressure on Trenton.

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“It’s a huge problem… It’s terrifying to think, and it’s just been talking to police officers, that some of these people might be gang members who have guns on them as they drive around our streets while our kids are out there,” Flynn said.

The current problem of vehicle theft affects communities throughout Morris County and throughout New Jersey.

In recent weeks, police departments across the county have issued public advisories, alerting residents to the ongoing problem.

According to the Montville Police Department, an alert resident called 911 after noticing a suspicious group of men fleeing his neighbor’s house. Police Department officers located the vehicle and pursued the men until the pursuit was turned over to assistance agencies.

The stolen car eventually crashed and the men were apprehended, police said.

“Thanks to this observant neighbor, our township had another crime-free night and the cast was caught. Remember when calling 911 to stay calm, speak clearly, be descriptive and listen to questions being asked. by the dispatcher,” Montville police said.

According to police, recent cases indicate a new criminal trend in Morris County. Thieves are now breaking into homes through unlocked doors or windows, forcing their way inside in some cases in search of vehicle keys.

Florham Park Police informed residents earlier this month that suspects were seen using the garage door opener to open the residence’s garage door and then entering the locker room from the house before being frightened by the owner’s dog.

The senses. Richard Codey (D-27) and Anthony Bucco (D-25) held a press conference earlier this month to crack down on the ringleaders, citing an alarming increase in vehicles stolen by recruiting auto theft rings children and teenagers to help succeed in their robberies.

“The arrested subjects demonstrate an emerging and serious threat, that is, the recruitment of young men or minors by older men to work together in conspiracies to commit vehicle thefts and then related crimes. This again demonstrates the need for additional legislation to address this serious crime trend of a new path to a criminal career for a young adult or minor,” said Morris County Attorney Robert J. Carroll.

The dramatic increase has led New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin to form a car theft task force in March.

Legislation proposed by Codey and State Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, aims to increase penalties for car theft and discourage minors from getting involved in a criminal enterprise.

The proposal also includes specific penalties for those found guilty of participating in a car theft ring, including a minor. According to lawmakers, this would elevate some second-degree offenses to first-degree, doubling the potential penalty.

More than 17,000 vehicles are expected to be stolen in the state this year and according to lawmakers, car thefts have increased by at least 20% per year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Your car is extremely susceptible to being used in the commission of other serious crimes including shootings and murders, it happens every day. That’s the real reason they’re taking them, it’s for their anonymity, during the crime spree, and then their elimination. These criminals are not joyriders, this is a criminal enterprise and it happens every day,” Gannon said.

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