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Lakewood's Township Committee, - as well as governing bodies of municipalities across the Garden State - are fed up with the uptick of motor vehicle thefts in the Township. As recently reported here on FAA News, there were 98 reported motor vehicle thefts in Lakewood in 2022.

The major hurdle facing municipalities across New Jersey is that even when the police department is able to charge an individual suspected of stealing a car with an arrestable offense, due to the State's Bail Reform Law, the suspects are not detained pending trial and are quickly back on the road.

An additional hurdle more specific to Lakewood is that there are numerous instances of individuals trespassing in front yards in an attempt to steal a car but they are chased away by the homeowners. At that point, the police department says they can't file charges for a car theft because no actual theft occurred and the most they can do is issue a trespass warning to scare away the individual from "hitting" the same front yard in the future.

After hearing from residents and the police department on the issue, Lakewood's Township Committee has agreed to step up to the plate and enact a measure that aims to meaningfully tackle the issue.

At their meeting later today, the Committee is scheduled to vote on final reading on an Ordinance  which will amend the Township's Disorderly Conduct code to specifically prohibit "intentionally entering upon or trespassing upon the land or property of any person without permission for the purpose of tampering with or committing the theft, or unlawful taking, of a motor vehicle."

The amended Ordinance would further enact a penalty as follows:

Any person violating or failing to comply with any of the provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be punishable by a fine of not more than $2,000 or by imprisonment for a term not to exceed 90 days, or by both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the Judge. The continuation of such violation on each successive day shall constitute a separate offense, and the person or persons allowing or permitting the continuation of the violation may be punished as provided above for each separate offense. In addition to any other penalty prescribed by this section, the minimum fine for a violation of this Section shall be $1000 for the first offense and $2000 for each second or subsequent offense. Each property trespassed upon, or vehicle tampered or targeted for theft or unlawful removal, shall constitute a separate and distinct offense.

The Ordinance states that "throughout the State of New Jersey, communities have been victimized by car theft rings, resulting in the damage and loss of private property and threatening the quality of life enjoyed by many; and in light of the state-wide increase in car thefts, the Mayor and Township Committee of Lakewood Township have determined that further action is required to deter criminals from pursuing car thefts in Lakewood."

The Township Committee already introduced on first reading at their Reorganization meeting. At today's Township Committee's meeting, which will take place at 5:30pm, the Committee will hold a public hearing on Ordinance 2023-002 prior to voting on final reading to enact it into law.

The meeting will take place virtually and can be watched here.

Members of the public who wish to comment on this proposed ordinance may do so via email up until 11:30 am at or during the meeting via Please include your name and address for the record.

Members of the public may also comment live during the meeting (which begins at 5:30pm) on the phone by calling (408) 418-9388, Meeting ID# is 2634-502-0366. All participants will be muted upon entry but may participate by using the *3 key on the phone to raise your hand (this will alert the Township that you wish to speak during the meeting).

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