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Rash of car thefts in New Jersey prompt police, lawmakers to call on feds for assistance

N.J. leaders call on federal government for help stopping car thefts 02:26

MIDDLETOWN, N.J. -- Some Garden State leaders are calling on the federal government to help stop the growing number of car thefts.

This comes days after Gov. Phil Murphy changed a controversial policy that now allows police to pursue stolen vehicles, CBS2's Lisa Rozner reported Tuesday.

Video obtained by CBS2 shows a sedan back up on a residential street in Middletown and then the driver gets out.

"My wife looks up and says, 'Whose car is that in the driveway?'" resident Robert Pisani said.

Pisani saw on his surveillance system that someone went into his garage. He said the person stole the key fob from the mudroom and drove off with his Range Rover.

"I grabbed the handle of the car and as he proceeded to drive away I was dragged down the driveway," Pisani said.

FLASHBACKPolice Warning Of Rise In Car Thefts In Union, Essex Counties Due In Part To Residents Not Following Simple Safety Steps

That was the second time Pisani had a vehicle stolen out of his driveway, and he's not alone. Statewide, there has been a 37 percent increase in auto thefts compared to this time last year, and in Monmouth County, Sheriff Shaun Golden says high-end auto thefts are up 110 percent from last year.

"We need stiffer penalties. We cannot continue with catch and release when it comes to vehicle thefts," Golden said.

He says criminal rings are often utilizing juveniles who don't have to serve jail time, and he named repeat adult offenders like one who was arrested in 2020 and again in 2022 after allegedly crashing a stolen vehicle and killing two people.

Another was arrested on March 30 of this year.

"He was released the very next day. He again was rearrested for guess what? A stolen vehicle on April 7," Golden said.

And released again.

The sheriff, local lawmakers, and mayors told Rozner they wrote a letter to the U.S. attorney general on Tuesday asking for an intervention. They say Gov. Murphy has declined to meet with them, and his announcement Friday to allow police pursuits and invest $10 million in police technology are not enough.

"We in Monmouth County have one of the most comprehensive and cooperative and probably the most intense plate reader system in state of New Jersey. It is not because of the lack of effort from our law enforcement partners," Golden said.

"Unbelievably frustrating. I moved my family to an amazing town and my car gets stolen twice? Because the police have their hands tied. It's unbelievable," Pisani said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, a representative for the governor did write CBS2 and said making the state safer is a priority and he is actively engaged with stakeholders across the state to combat rising car thefts.

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