Police in Monmouth County prioritize to stop rash of car thefts

Police in Monmouth County say stopping vehicle thefts remains a high priority for them as numbers continue to trend in the wrong direction.
News 12 New Jersey reported the increase in car thefts even before the pandemic, and reports continue to come in to police in Middletown who say thieves are targeting high-end vehicles like BMWs, Land Rovers, and Audis.
And as the chief told us - so many of these thefts are easily preventable.
Middletown Township Police Chief Craig Weber says many of these thefts are easily preventable.
"The simplest thing anyone can do is to lock their car and remove the key fob every single time they exit a vehicle," Weber says.
Police say car thieves are becoming more brazen in their thefts as they no longer focus on committing the crimes during the overnight hours.
"We have seen an increase in our area as well as statewide. Typically in our area, we used to have thefts occur overnight, the early morning before 5 a.m. Recently, it's become much more brazen. We are having thefts occur in broad daylight," Weber says.
According to police records, thefts continue to increase.
In 2020, there were 11,561 vehicle thefts statewide, with 33 in Middletown Township. That number jumped in 2021 to 14,140 vehicle thefts statewide and 31 in the township.
From early 2022 to date, there's been a 36% increase in vehicle thefts statewide.
Middletown police say neighborhoods especially at risk are those with close easy access to the Garden State Parkway. They reported another theft this weekend with more attempts.
The state police task force arrested two underage suspects on Interstate 78 in a stolen BMW M5. They also found a gun with hollow point ammunition in the vehicle.
The driver tried to flee before crashing into trees, according to police.
Police say stolen vehicles end up being used in other violent crimes and some end up being shipped to black markets in underdeveloped nations.
Weber says the department has stepped up efforts to lower the number of thefts.
"Here in Middletown, we have a detective assigned full time to New Jersey State Police auto theft task force and we've increased patrols throughout the township and we try to educate the public to help assist us by being vigilant, reporting suspicious activity and locking their vehicles," he says.
Middletown Mayor Tony Perry wrote about the increase in thefts on his Facebook page, saying, "Unfortunately, these criminals have been empowered knowing that they face little consequence for their actions due to dangerous directives put in place by the Attorney General's Office, leaving our police officers handcuffed to their policies. Middletown is a safe town and we will do everything necessary to continue to bring our residents that continued security."
The department continues to emphasize that the township is a safe community and notes an 88% drop in burglary cases between 2011 and 2021.
Police are also reminding residents to keep their homes and garages locked. Twice this year in Middletown, vehicle thieves entered homes to search for key fobs.