New Jersey law enforcement agencies have launched a new effort to crack down on violent crime, and they are asking for the public’s help in one simple, specific way.

They’re calling on people who own cars and trucks to make sure their vehicles are turned off and locked when not in use, especially at the end of the day.

A new link discovered

According to New Jersey State Police Superintendent Pat Callahan, there is a strong correlation between auto thefts, which are up 31% so far this year compared to the same time in 2021, and violent crime.

He pointed out close to 10% of individuals charged with auto theft in Jersey last year were arrested carrying a firearm, and many were later linked to a shooting incident.

“There’s a sense of anonymity with a stolen car, I steal a car in Ocean County and I commit a shooting in Trenton, and I’m on my way to a final destination point, that’s the reality that we’re starting to see,” he said.

Callahan said people who steal vehicles frequently wind up committing some kind of a violent crime including “aggravated assault, simple assault, it can be anything from a stabbing, shootings.”

Police crime scene

Steal a car, commit another crime

He pointed out “if a car is stolen at 1 o’clock in the morning that’s not going to be reported stolen until daybreak probably, you think what could happen in those 5 or 6 hours.”

He said even if the vehicle is stopped, the driver can tell police they were given permission to use the vehicle by the owner and there’s not really anything authorities can do until the following morning.

He said by that time “you know that car is gone and either found abandoned or on a container ship on its way to another country, the ones that we don’t recover are gone. They’re not even in the U.S. anymore.”

Callahan noted the connection between auto theft and violent crime is also being seen in other states across the country, but the simple act of locking a vehicle can help to solve the problem.

“We’re just now starting to focus on the connection with automobile theft as well as shootings and seeing if we can bring both down even more,” he said.

He pointed out public messaging on the issue may soon include electronic billboards and variable message signs around the state.

“We need to get every single citizen out there aware of the potential for their car not to just be stolen, but then to be used in a violent crime, and that’s why we’re asking the public to do their part in helping us out,” he said.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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