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Movies like Gone in 60 Seconds make stealing cars look fun. In reality, it has a devastating effect on the owner, the insurance companies who have to pay for the loss of the vehicle, and the economy. It also puts more work on law enforcement agencies, who must track down the thieves and hopefully recover the stolen vehicles.

While many of these crimes often aren’t solved, New Jersey has recently broken up an alleged car theft ring. Here are all the juicy details on how it went down, as well as some car safety tips to help prevent this from happening to you.

High-end cars were being stolen from New Jersey dealerships

A demonstration of a thief breaking into a car by a police officer and a decoy car in Harlow, Essex, England
A demonstration of a thief breaking into a car | Sean Dempsey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

New Jersey 101.5 reports that between May and June 2021, there were a total of 22 high-end vehicles stolen in New Jersey. This included Mercedes, BMWs, Land Rovers, Audis, Infinitis, and a Ford Raptor. Most were stolen directly from dealerships located in Essex, Hudson, Bergen, and Union counties.

One vehicle was stolen directly from the owner’s driveway. The cars weren’t the only thing to be stolen. There were several non-functioning key fobs, which aided in the theft of more vehicles. 

The total value of the stolen vehicles is reported to be around $787,000. This doesn’t include the money stolen from a safe which contained $52,000. 

New Jersey law enforcement worked around the clock to solve the case

According to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, six individuals were arrested for the alleged theft of the stolen vehicles. The robberies were reportedly committed after the dealership closed down for the night.

While the charges vary from individual to individual, they include second- or third-degree counts of theft, receiving stolen property, burglary, and second-degree conspiracy. Two of the arrested individuals will be charged with second-degree eluding, as both allegedly drove away at high speeds when officers tried to make a vehicle stop.

The amount of jail time may be extensive if any defendants are found guilty. The second-degree crimes can mean a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, as well as a fine of $150,000. The third-degree offenses may result in a sentence of three to five years, as well as a fine of up to $15,000.

The Acting Attorney General Bruck stated, “We’re cracking down on the criminal enterprises that endanger our state’s residents and businesses, and these arrests demonstrate our ongoing commitment to that effort.”

Car theft is on the rise due to the pandemic

According to Kelley Blue Book, car theft has been on the rise since the pandemic began. In 2020, there were a total of 880,595 reported car thefts. That’s an 11% increase from 2019.

The frustrating part is that car theft was declining before the pandemic. The states that saw the biggest increase in thefts were California, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, and Washington, D.C. Even though there was an alleged theft ring broken up in New Jersey, the Garden State saw a decrease in car thefts.

It’s unclear why car thefts increased so drastically when the pandemic hit. It could be that more people weren’t driving their cars due to lockdowns, and therefore may not physically check on their vehicle for days at a time. This makes stealing cars all the more straightforward. After all, if no one reports the car stolen for several days, it makes it that much harder to retrieve it.

It’s also possible that due to plants being shut down and computer chips slowing down production, the value of cars has increased significantly, meaning stolen vehicles are worth a lot more to thieves.

While no method will 100% guarantee your car won’t be stolen, simple things like keeping your windows rolled up, doors locked, and parking in a well-lit location can considerably lower your risks. Also, using visible security measures like steering wheel locks will deter a criminal who wants an easy grab. A tracking device for your car can also help locate it in a worst-case scenario.