PORT NEWARK – A rise in car thefts in New Jersey and across the nation of late has gotten a lot of attention. It’s easy to see why.
Not only is it jarring to have your car vanish – many times overnight – authorities say that the drivers of stolen vehicles often commit other violent crimes.
Another possibility is that the car – either intact or chopped into parts – is swiftly on a boat to west Africa.
That makes the crime the province of any number of federal agencies – Homeland Security, the FBI and ICE.
And it also brought Rep. Josh Gottheimer to the shores of the Port Newark Channel this morning to talk about the problem, or more specifically, what’s not being done. Gottheimer was joined by Michael Dillon, the police chief in Allendale, and Bergen County Sheriff Anthony Cureton.
None of the officials represent the city of Newark, but that wasn’t the point.
Port Newark is figuratively the head of the snake, Gottheimer said.
“Thousands of vehicles are being illegally exported through our tristate area ports, and there has been a spike in violent carjacking in North Jersey,” according to a statement from the congressman’s office.
Gottheimer said the feds have to do a better job policing what goes through the port and gets on container ships.
The congressman said he has asked the DHS many times to get involved, but, so far, nothing has happened.
The DHS has not yet responded to a question about Gottheimer’s point.
The midterm election is less than a week away and Republicans in New Jersey and elsewhere are using rising crime as a campaign issue.
In this specific case, however, party politics doesn’t seem to be the issue.
When it was suggested to Gottheimer that it seems odd that a Democratic administration is ignoring a Democratic congressman, he said it would be odd as well if it were ignoring a Republican congressman.
Gottheimer said that only the feds can investigate the leaders of car theft enterprises.
The congressman is not the only official thinking about car thefts.
Mindful of the 14,000 or so cars stolen so far this year in New Jersey, Rep. Mikie Sherrill joined local and state officials in Madison last month to talk about a federal bill to provide local agencies money and equipment to combat car thefts. Also discussed was pending state legislature to toughen penalties for juveniles involved in stealing cars. All these measures are bipartisan.