I always figured my car was safe in my local shopping center parking lot as long as it was locked, but it seems as though I might be wrong.

In 2021, there were a total of 14,320 cars stolen in New Jersey, a 22% increase from 2020, according to State Police data.

While many of these thefts occurred in more luxury vehicles, that doesn’t necessarily mean that non-luxury cars are safe. Recently, cops have been dispersing themselves throughout more suburban towns in order to intercept these crimes.

The Auto Theft Task Force has also been given $125,000 in federal funds in order to purchase more materials to defend car theft. It is unclear what materials this grant will go towards, but we can hope it means more security and surveillance in public parking lots.

There is also a new policy in New Jersey that states you can only pursue vehicles if you believe a major crime such as murder or assault has been committed. This has made it much more difficult to track down car theft as a cop can no longer pursue a car just because it’s speeding.

Luckily, police still have the ability to track down stolen vehicles as long as they have plate information, so not all hope is lost.

In the meantime, if you are nervous about leaving your car out in public, take these extra steps to prevent theft:

— Be sure to never leave your keys or vehicle unattended, especially if it's running.

— Park in populated or well-lit areas.

— Make sure all windows and doors are locked and closed.

— And finally, make sure any valuables are hidden.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.

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