As chief of police in Freehold Township, George Baumann has seen the same individuals walk in and out of the courtroom, after being caught for their involvement in an attempted or actual vehicle theft.

"They're young — if not juveniles, they're young adults ... and then they're just coming back, because it's profitable," Baumann said.

Baumann is one of several police chiefs throwing their support behind just-released legislation that aims to reduce the number of criminals who are nabbed multiple times for the same reason: automobile theft.

In response to the more than 14,300 vehicle thefts reported through the first 11 months of 2022, to go along with more than 14,000 in 2021, legislation from Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth, would keep certain offenders locked up pretrial.

Gopal's bill establishes a "rebuttable presumption" of pretrial detention for individuals charged with carjacking, and for offenders charged with car theft and burglary who've been convicted for the same thing over the past year, and those with a prior pending charge.

During a press conference in Ocean Township, Sen. Vin Gopal announces legislation targeting auto thefts. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)
During a press conference in Ocean Township, Sen. Vin Gopal announces legislation targeting auto thefts. (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

"This is a decisive and targeted action to counter auto thefts and related crimes by allowing law enforcement to detain repeat offenders," Gopal said. "Criminals are burglarizing houses for key fobs, stealing cars right out of people's driveways and using the vehicles to commit other crimes."

If signed into law, Gopal's bill would remain in effect for one year.

Gopal announced his legislation during a press conference in Ocean Township on Thursday. He was joined by police chiefs, Senate President Nick Scutari, and the presidents of the New Jersey PBA and the State Troopers Fraternal Association.

"It is clear that more has to be done to stop this surge and protect the safety and security of our communities," Scutari said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday is scheduled to consider a number of measures aimed at combating motor vehicle thefts, including bills to toughen penalties and a measure that would prohibit towing companies from requiring the owner of a stolen car from paying a fee to have the vehicle released.

The Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee approved a package of related bills earlier this month. In November, Gov. Phil Murphy announced his support for legislation targeting the issue.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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