Bill Empowers Law Enforcement Against Vehicle Thefts

The State Senate today gave law enforcement new tools to put away career car thieves. Legislation sponsored by Deputy Majority Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) makes it easier to bring felony auto theft charges against suspects previously convicted of a broader range of vehicle-related crimes. This will enable police and prosecutors to break up auto theft rings.Under current law, suspects may only be charged with felony auto theft if they have a prior conviction for auto theft. However, a suspect’s prior convictions for other vehicle related crimes do not apply. Car thieves often operate in organized rings that include auto strippers, or “chop shops,” and auto identity theft specialists, who change a vehicle’s unique identification number, making it easier to sell stolen cars to unwitting buyers.Senator Klein’s legislation, S1899A, allows prosecutors to bring felony auto theft charges against suspects convicted of a wider range of offenses, including unauthorized use of a vehicle, grand larceny, criminal possession of a vehicle, auto stripping, or illegal possession of a vehicle identification number.“Repeat car thieves have a serious and costly impact on the quality of life in multiple New York neighborhoods. By making it easier for law enforcement to target and prosecute these career criminals, we can catch repeat offenders faster and prevent future crimes from happening. I urge the Assembly and the Governor to join me in my effort to protect New Yorkers from auto theft,” said State Senator and Deputy Majority Leader Jeffrey D. Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester). “Buffalo had the highest auto theft rate in the state last year,” said Senator William Stachowski (D-Lake View). “Today we sent the message to car thieves and would-be thieves: it doesn’t matter whether you break into a car, drive it or sell it for parts, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”“Auto theft is a multi-faceted crime which requires a big picture enforcement approach. This legislation recognizes that those who operate behind the scenes and dispose of stolen vehicles are just as guilty of auto theft as someone who breaks into a vehicle and drives it away,” said Senator David J. Valesky (D-Oneida).“As car designs and on-board systems become more technologically advanced, aftermarket enterprises, both legitimate and criminal, will continue to grow. This legislation recognizes that there exists a growing black market for stolen cars and parts, that not all break-ins and thefts are isolated and not all parties are first-time offenders. This legislation, when enacted, will prove to be a great tool for law enforcement and prosecutors to confront this problem at its source,” said Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.“Auto theft is the most expensive property crime in the nation. Today, thanks to Senator Klein’s leadership, New York police and prosecutors will be better able to break up auto theft rings and put away repeat offenders who have operated with impunity,” said Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson.

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