Between 2018 and 2019, more than 440 vehicles were stolen in Morris County. Another 464 vehicles were burglarized.

So law enforcement in the county just announced it's dedicating personnel specifically to these crimes, and is imploring residents to take common-sense steps in order to prevent more auto thefts and burglaries.

"The first piece of our strategy is a public service announcement. Lock it or lose it. We can really use the public's support with regard to locking their vehicles," Morris County Sheriff James Gannon told New Jersey 101.5.

In the majority of Morris County's stolen-vehicle cases over the past two years, the cars and trucks were left unlocked, with a key fob left in the vehicle. In some incidents, suspects used garage door openers found in unlocked vehicles to gain access to a home and locate keys.

"Very few" incidents are break-ins, Gannon said. Unlocked vehicles that do not have a key fob inside are also being searched for valuables.

"Some of these vehicles stolen in Morris County have been used to commit violent crimes in other areas — we're talking shootings, we're talking armed robberies, and we're talking homicides," Gannon said.

The most commonly targeted vehicles in the county include high-end makes and models, such as Mercedes Benz, Lexus, Range Rover, Porsche and Audi, along with the Ford pick-up trucks.

To help combat the persistent problem, an auto theft task force has been launched through a partnership between the Sheriff's Office, the Morris County Police Chiefs' Association, the county prosecutor's office, and the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force, in coordination with various law enforcement agencies both within and beyond the county's borders. The initiative was first conceptualized by the police chief in Montville Township.

"We find that by joining agencies and supplying personnel to a task force, we can create a situation of force multiplication," said Chester Police Chief Thomas Williver, president of the Morris County Police Chiefs' Association. "This is intelligence-led policing and will help all of our communities."

About three-quarters of stolen vehicles are recovered, but they're typically damaged, according to county law enforcement.

Essex County is a typical dumping ground for these vehicles; the Newark Police Department is another partner in the newly formed task force.

Asking community members to be the first line of defense, Morris County officials offered the following tips:

  • Vehicles should never be left unlocked.
  • Never leave a key fob in a vehicle.
  • Neighbors should watch out for neighbors.
  • Report any suspicious activity or person.
  • Call 911 to report crimes in progress.

More from New Jersey 101.5:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22NKZMSSjBE

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.