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Gottheimer demands U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security take action to combat spike in car thefts despite multiple calls for assistance

NEW JERSEY — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Wednesday joined with local and state law enforcement officials at Port Newark to demand more action from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help local, county, and state law enforcement combat the unprecedented spike in car thefts and stolen cars from being illegally exported through our ports.

In July 2022, Gottheimer urged the Administration to create a new National Auto Theft Task Force to coordinate federal, state, and local law enforcement efforts focused on combating interstate and international carjacking and auto theft.

Gottheimer also urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to boost security at ports to intercept more stolen cars before they are loaded into containers and shipped overseas.

Nearly four months after urging DHS to take action, multiple calls for assistance, and multiple invitations to make public any action being taken to improve port security or tackle illegal exports, DHS has refused to provide an update.

Now, Gottheimer is calling on the following federal action:

  • For the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to engage with the public and answer questions about stolen vehicles being illegally exported overseas through Port Newark.
  • For DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to set up a task force to coordinate with state, county, and local law enforcement, including the port police, to combat illegal exports of stolen cars.
  • For DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and other agencies within DHS to immediately strengthen law enforcement presence, increase port security, and improve inspections at ports.
  • For both the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Justice to examine the international illicit financing angle of these crimes to help follow the money, whether domestically or overseas.
  • For DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to come before the House Committee on Homeland Security and answer questions under oath to explain his Department’s failings.

“It feels like every other day we read about yet another carjacking or stolen car literally taken out of someone’s driveway as they slept or, brazenly, in broad daylight. Within minutes, these cars are chopped up for parts or they’re brought here where they are immediately put onto ships. Jersey law enforcement is working overtime in our towns and cities — like Chief Dillon and Sheriff Cureton — to capture the criminals, and the coordination within the state deserves our praise. But, frankly, this is not just a local crime issue — it’s a national and international issue with multistate and global crime rings,” Gottheimer said. “But, the Department of Homeland Security will not take additional steps to crack down on illegal cargo, like stolen cars, moving through our ports. After hearing the concerns of our law enforcement and the constant thefts in our communities, it is clear that federal action must be taken.”

“Now, nearly four months after urging DHS to take action, after multiple calls for assistance, after asking that the federal department show up today, what have they done? No idea. DHS has not made public any concrete action they’ve taken here to improve security at our port or tackle illegal exports. And, despite repeated invitations over the last months, DHS has refused to show up here to provide an update and places where we can work together to take this issue head-on. I’m on the Homeland Security Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over DHS, CPB, and ICE, and despite my many calls to the Secretary to ask what else he and the team needs to fight auto theft, he has refused to engage. I guess he thinks their failures here at the Port and in New Jersey are acceptable. I have a very different opinion — and so do law enforcement and the families I represent,” Gottheimer said.

Auto thefts nationwide were up 16.5% in 2021. Last year in New Jersey, there were more than 14,000 vehicles reported stolen — a shocking 22% increase compared to 2020. Year after year, these crimes continue to grow. So far, there has been a 19% increase through the first eight months of 2022 compared to last year. In 2022, Bergen County has seen a 54% increase in car thefts.

Gottheimer was joined at Port Newark by Allendale Police Chief Michael Dillon, Deputy Chief of Detectives for the NJ Division of Criminal Justice in the Office of the Attorney General Tony Butler, and Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton.

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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