NEW JERSEY – Senator Joe Pennacchio has introduced legislation that would upgrade charges for committing personal crimes, increasing sentencing and fines for the duration of the ongoing coronavirus Public Health Emergency and State of Emergency declared by the Governor’s executive order.
“Residents are especially susceptible due to heightened stress, health fears, and financial instability resulting from the pandemic,” Pennacchio (R-26) said. “Unfortunately, predators are taking advantage of our communities during these vulnerable times. States of emergency should never be interpreted as an open invitation for criminals to abuse residents during these high-risk conditions. The perpetrators must be held accountable.”
“The behavior of those who prey on innocent victims has created additional anxiety and concerns for isolated families, and more notably, individuals who have been locked down alone inside their own homes,” Pennacchio said.
The bill (S-2639), introduced this week, temporarily upgrades certain offenses against persons during the emergency declared in Murphy’s Executive Order 103 of 2020.
According to the New Jersey State Police, shooting murders have increased by almost 10 percent during the pandemic, Pennacchio said.
One unsolved killing prompted the victim’s sister to appeal to legislators across the state for harsher criminal penalties during the crisis. The plea resonated with Pennacchio.
“I read this heart-wrenching email that reminded me of our responsibility to every resident of our state,” Pennacchio said. “The rule of law and maintaining public safety are paramount responsibilities of our society. As we endure the effects of this emergency, our laws should be temporarily adjusted to protect those who are suffering from opportunistic predators.”
“We are suffering as a nation, community and society. COVID-19 has been a death sentence to thousands of New Jersey residents,” Lateefah Ransom, the victim’s sister, told the Senator. “Many families have experienced delays with funeral arrangements and burials causing more grief. We have to stop the violence that is ravaging our communities. Although no jail time can bring back our loved ones, at least these individuals will not be on the street committing further violence.”
“That letter made the victim no longer just a number, an abstraction. The pain and suffering this family will feel is forever. It is incumbent upon all of us to try to limit those who would prey on and hurt us all, especially during these difficult times,” Pennacchio said.