TRENTON – If you haven’t heard numerous advisories from police chiefs in all three Downbeach towns, chances are you will be hearing a lot more about locking your car doors to prevent thefts, not only of your vehicle and its contents, but also of your home.
With thefts of high-end vehicles on the rise statewide, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Office of the Insurance Fraud Prosecutor today announced the launch of the “Lock It or Lose It” public awareness campaign aimed at discouraging New Jerseyans from leaving their cars unlocked with the key fob inside.
The initiative, which closes Insurance Fraud Awareness Month, seeks to counter the steady increase in luxury vehicle thefts that cost the insurance industry billions of dollars each year nationwide in claim payouts and investigative costs, and give rise to insurance fraud and other crimes.
The new campaign’s “Lock It or Lose It” slogan will begin appearing Monday in ads running on billboards, radio, and on cable television stations across New Jersey, along with a warning that stolen cars may be used to commit more serious crimes.
“Auto theft isn’t just for joyriding anymore. It could be a critical first step in the commission of much more serious crimes like murder and robbery,” Grewal said. “We want people to realize that carelessly leaving their key fobs in their unlocked cars or leaving their cars running and unattended is an open invitation to car thieves who need a vehicle to carry out their criminal agenda.”
The Downbeach area is not immune to these types of thefts. In fact, there have been reports of thefts of homes as well.
One public official’s house was robbed because inside her vehicle was the garage door opener, which provided an ideal opportunity for the thief to get into her home and steal her purse.
Concerns about the criminal domino effect of stolen cars come at a time when auto thefts in general are trending downward in the state, but thefts of high-end vehicles – loosely defined as less than five years’ old with a sticker price of $50,000 and up, are rising.
Statistics compiled by the New Jersey State Police show that from January through September this year, a total of 7,131 autos were reported stolen statewide, 4.4% fewer than reported during the same period in 2019. However, high-end auto thefts climbed 7.5 % to 1,501.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, between 40 and 50% of vehicle theft is due to driver error, which includes leaving vehicle doors unlocked and leaving keys or fobs inside.
“Ironically, car thieves are stealing vehicles that are equipped with advanced anti-theft technology, but that technology is rendered useless when owners make the decision to leave key fobs inside their cars. This careless behavior encourages criminals to look for easy targets,” said NJ State Police Superintendent, Col. Patrick J. Callahan. “The consequences of car theft are multifaceted. Stolen vehicles are often used in the commission of crimes, and the astronomical costs to insurance companies affect the insurance premiums of policyholders. A vast amount of car thefts can be avoided by simply locking your vehicles and keeping fobs in a safe location.”
More than $6 billion was lost nationwide to motor vehicle thefts in 2019, requiring insurance companies to pay out large sums of money, costs they pass on to all of their policy holders.
A key mission of the Lock It or Lose It campaign is to get New Jerseyans to recognize that vehicle theft is a gateway crime to more serious criminal activity. By locking their cars and keeping the key fobs with them at all times, New Jersey residents can prevent the next crime spree from happening, reducing the risks to our law enforcement officers and preventing the unnecessary loss of innocent lives.