Monmouth County Sheriff says catch-and-release of repeat offenders is main cause of rising car thefts
Since New Jersey's bail reform laws were tweaked five years ago, many local government and law enforcement officials at the Jersey Shore along with some state lawmakers have expressed genuine concern with it in that it has led to a rise in crime particularly among repeat offenders due to what became 'catch-and-release' policies imposed on law enforcement and correctional facilities.
In January of 2019 in an exclusive Townsquare Media News interview at the Monmouth County Correctional Institute in Freehold, Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden described Bail Reform as a revolving door at that time discussing how it specifically impacted those arrested for drug offenses.
During a Townsquare Media News roundtable discussion in March of 2022, Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden along with State GOP Senators Declan O'Scanlon and Michael Testa discussed how the deficiencies in the Bail Reform law has led to a rise in car thefts and overall crime.
The ongoing flaws of New Jersey's bail reform law revisions has contributed, at least in part, to the rising amount of car thefts and vehicle burglaries all over the state including in Monmouth County.
To date, there have been more than 560 car thefts in Monmouth County this year alone.
Sheriff Shaun Golden says these car theft criminals are becoming more brazen than ever and feels that bail reform may be a reason why.
"There's statistical proof about bail reform and the failure of bail reform in this equation of stolen vehicles, and it's undeniable," Golden said.
This has been a problem not just for months, but years and Sheriff Golden is among those who have pitched solutions but have been disappointed that they haven't been picked up and run with at the Statehouse.
"The leaders have spoken about this in the administration and the legislature, they know there's an issue, they haven't done anything to fix it upon our law enforcement requests -- the Chiefs of Police, the Sheriff's across the state of New Jersey -- all pointing to the fact that we are not keeping repeat offenders, repeat offenders in the jail awaiting trial and that allows them back out on our streets to do it over and over again," Golden said.
There have been possible solutions to this overall bail reform problem along with the car theft crisis pitched to state legislators, but Sheriff Golden and many others are waiting for real change to happen, and something pitched to be implemented.
"We've given them ideas about legislative change -- let's go to a 3-strikes, if you want to give somebody a second chance, we're okay with that, but obviously if they're out 3-4-5 times -- there's a problem," Golden said. "Let's go to a 3-strikes on motor vehicles -- so, if you steal 3 vehicles, guess what, you're staying in jail until you're held for your trial. Let's start there."
In Monmouth County specifically, Sheriff Golden says there has been undeniable evidence, according to stats they've gathered at the MCCI, to a rise in car thefts coinciding with the revisions to New Jersey's Bail Reform Law changes.
"Before bail reform in 2017, we averaged under 185 vehicles (thefts), every year, year over year, it's gone up 100: 2018 -- 240, 2019 -- just over 300, 2020 -- 320, now 2022 and we're up over 550 stolen motor vehicles," Golden said. "This is since bail reform was enacted five years ago in 2017, you can look at those statistics across any one of the counties and they will show an increase in each one of those counties post-bail reform."
Sheriff Golden says until change is made in Trenton, the problems with car thefts will continue to rise.
"We are letting these repeat offenders back out on the street to reoffend and continue to steal vehicles, and, until we stop that behavior with some type of change in policy and law -- we've had press conferences, we've written letters, we've certainly had conversations with our legislators -- they must act on this, and, until they do, we'll continue to see our communities being raided with stolen vehicles," Golden said.