The latest takedown of an international carjacking and vehicle theft ring, with immediate ties to New Jersey, shines a light on a problem plaguing the state's northern half.

Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announces the takedown of an international carjacking/theft ring with direct ties to New Jersey. (Townsquare Media)

At a press conference in Totowa on Thursday, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman noted the crime of carjacking has reached "epidemic levels," and unlike the "old days," the main culprits aren't kids who grab someone else's car for a quick joyride.

"Those kids have been replaced by heartless and hardened bandits who are taking high-end luxury vehicles through violent means, all with the promise of tremendous profit," Hoffman explained. "This is a heinous crime. It's a terribly dangerous crime. It's a threat to public safety, and it has, as we know, tragic consequences."

A New Jersey lawyer was shot and killed in December during a botched carjacking at the Mall at Short Hills. Four men have since been charged.

LISTEN: AG Hoffman recalls Newark carjacking incident

Thursday's bust included the arrests of several men and the recovery of more than 160 stolen vehicles, most of which were found at ports in New Jersey and New York.

The syndicate targeted high-end vehicles, particularly luxury SUVs, with the intent to ship them to West Africa, which boasts a higher resale value.

Neilson Barnard, Getty Images

Hoffman said theft crews often have a goal of obtaining keys or key fobs because the items make for easier distribution to the secondary market.

"Carjackers would often target victims by bumping their vehicles from behind on the highway," the Attorney General's office stated in a press release. "When victims stopped to address the situation, the carjackers would take their key by force or threat, or simply jump into the vehicle and drive off if the key was left inside."

Most of the recovered vehicles had been stolen from airports, car dealerships, and car washes.

Sending a message to anyone who may become the victim of a car heist, Hoffman offered two pieces of advice: don't fight it, and get a close look at the perpetrators.