Advancing efforts that led to a 16% drop in the number of vehicles stolen in New Jersey between September 2022 and March 2023, Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin on Friday announced that 34 law enforcement agencies in 21 counties and the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) will receive grant funding to acquire or expand technology to combat auto theft thanks to $10 million in funding made available by the Murphy Administration.
At least one local enforcement agency in each county across New Jersey will receive grants ranging from $23,400 to $595,000 to acquire and expand existing Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) technology systems that utilize high-speed, automated camera networks to capture and store computer-readable images of license plates in a centralized database accessible to law enforcement. This information assists law enforcement in identifying, locating, and recovering stolen vehicles; interrupting auto theft networks; and apprehending individuals involved in vehicle theft and other violent crimes.
Ocean County law enforcement agencies will receive $346,758 of those funds.
The grants, made available by Governor Phil Murphy using federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds, ensure that for the first time, all 21 counties will have usage of ALPR technology at fixed locations within their jurisdictions. The grants are the latest investments to law enforcement agencies to combat auto theft New Jersey and reduce the violent crime it gives rise to.
“Residents across New Jersey deserve to feel safe in their communities. As we continue to address the ongoing wave of auto theft in our state, it is important that we equip our law enforcement agencies with the necessary tools they need to identify and catch these bad actors,” said Governor Murphy. “We appreciate our congressional delegation’s continued support in our efforts to combat crime here in New Jersey. We have witnessed the success that new technology, including the Automated License Plate Readers, has played in this process and we are committed to further investing in this cause until the number of auto thefts in our state hit zero.”
“Reducing auto thefts across New Jersey is a top priority, and thanks to the leadership and support of Governor Murphy and our congressional delegation, we are investing millions of dollars to provide law enforcement officers in all 21 counties with the tools they need to protect residents, make communities safer, and save lives,” said Attorney General Platkin. “We know that car thefts on their own are bad enough, but they are also used to commit other, violent crimes. By equipping law enforcement with sophisticated Automated License Plate Reader technology, we are sending a clear message of deterrence against committing auto thefts.”
“Auto theft not only victimizes the owner of the vehicle, but it can also victimize the whole community. Stolen vehicles are often used in the commission of crimes and can be found driving recklessly on our roadways creating a dangerous environment for everyone,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The funding to expand ALPR technology throughout the state will be pivotal in our effort to combat this ongoing issue. The steps taken to approve this funding represent a commitment to supporting not only law enforcement but a commitment to the safety of all New Jersey residents.”
ALPR technology is a critical component in New Jersey’s comprehensive strategy to combat auto theft; an effort that has led to a 16% reduction in the number of vehicles stolen statewide over a six-month period between from September 2022 through March 2023.
In April 2022, Governor Murphy announced he would invest $10 million in ARP funding for ALPR technology.
NJSP will receive just over $3 million of the grant funding to deploy ALPR units along major roadways that run throughout the state. Intelligence gathered will be shared by NJSP in real-time through the Regional Operations Intelligence Center and Real Time Crime Centers operated by the NJSP with relevant law enforcement partners as appropriate for investigative and operational need.
The remaining available funds were made accessible through a competitive grant process open to all law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction in New Jersey that serve communities demonstrating an increase in violent crime, gun violence, and/or auto theft. Funding decisions were made to ensure the broadest and deepest levels of service coverage practicable, with consideration given to the type of deliverables, the desired outcomes, and the geographical location of the project in comparison with crime statistics and data.
The federal ARP grants were made available to state, local, and Tribal governments across the country to support their response to and recovery from the COVID-19 public health emergency. Violent crime is recognized as a public health challenge exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Providing these resources to law enforcement follows Attorney General Platkin’s commitment to reducing auto thefts across the state:
Prosecuting offenders through the Auto Theft Task Force (“ATTF”). Shortly after taking office in February 2022, General Platkin announced an increase to the ATTF membership by adding investigators and prosecutors from both the NJSP and the Division of Criminal Justice and increasing financial support through the federal Justice Assistance Grant program. Led by the NJSP, the task force includes members from other state, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies and uses a statewide, intelligence-based approach to hold accountable those responsible for auto thefts in communities across New Jersey. The task force has recovered dozens of stolen vehicles, in total, millions of dollars over the course of 2022. For example, in May 2022, the Division of Criminal Justice secured prison sentences for three defendants convicted as a result of an ATTF investigation into a Newark-based stolen auto-trafficking ring that “fenced” stolen luxury vehicles worth more than $1 million.
Revising the state’s vehicular pursuit policy. Attorney General Platkin revised the state’s December 202 vehicular pursuit policy to allow law enforcement to pursue vehicles reported stolen in certain circumstances.
Re-launching “Lock It or Lose It” public awareness campaign. This successful statewide awareness campaign aimed at discouraging New Jerseyans from leaving their cars unlocked with the key fob inside was re-launched in 2022. The campaign originated in October 2020, when New Jersey first began to see a rise in thefts of high-end vehicles with key fobs left inside and began tracking the nexus between stolen vehicles and violent crime.