🔵 Preliminary numbers show that automobile thefts increased in NJ in 2023

🔵 Certain manufacturers are being blamed for the climbing numbers

🔵 High-end vehicle thefts are down substantially

More than 16,600 vehicles were stolen throughout New Jersey in 2023, according to preliminary data.

That's an increase of 4% from 2022.

The statistics suggest that it's not only owners of luxury vehicles that need to make sure they're locking up. And New Jersey officials are calling out certain vehicle manufacturers for the year-over-year climb.

Vehicles in the high-end category — brands such as Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and more — accounted for just 3,367 automobile thefts in New Jersey last year. Compared to 2022, high-end car thefts were down 20% in 2023.

"Outside of Kia and Hyundai, we're seeing a substantial reduction in auto thefts," Attorney General Matthew Platkin told New Jersey 101.5. "We're going to continue to drive that down because we know that auto thefts are not only a threat to the community themselves, but stolen cars are also often used in other crimes."

Kia and Hyundai thefts

If the state were to remove Kia and Hyundai vehicles from the equation, auto thefts in 2023 would have actually decreased by 10% from the year prior.

The vehicle brands have been experiencing a spike in thefts in New Jersey and nationwide as a result of material shared on social media that shows individuals how to start the cars without a key in under a minute. Online posts have gone so far as to challenge users to steal Hyundais and Kias and upload videos of their exploits.

"We have been all over the manufacturers to get them to provide the necessary updates for people," Platkin said.

In 2023, Kia and Hyundai announced that they had developed theft deterrent software for their vehicles that "lack an immobilizer." It's being provided for free to vehicle owners who reach out for the fix.

Rising vehicle theft numbers

New Jersey's preliminary count of 16,605 vehicle thefts in 2023 — numbers shared with New Jersey 101.5 by Platkin's office — is up by about 700 from 2022. Between 2021 and 2022, the tally grew by more than 1,500.

Critics in law enforcement have pointed to changes in New Jersey's bail system as a main reason for the climbing numbers — keeping an offender in custody today isn't really a matter of money, but whether or not they are a risk to the community. Offenders, critics claim, don't have to worry about remaining in custody when they're arrested, and they can get back out on the streets to commit the same crime again and again.

Making matter worse, law enforcement have said, criminals employ juveniles to carry out the thefts because they know minors would face little to no punishment if they are caught.

A law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in July scraps the presumption of pretrial release for defendants charged with certain motor vehicle offenses if they had been arrested or convicted on a similar offense in the prior 90 days. Murphy also inked laws that extend sentences for certain repeat offenders and expand penalties for offenders who use a motor vehicle master key.

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