Gov. Hochul launches plan to combat car thefts

The plan is called the Comprehensive Auto-Theft Reduction Strategy (CARS)

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced late Friday a new comprehensive plan to combat the recent rash of car thefts across New York. She says it's a five-pronged plan to stop thieves in their tracks.

Hochul says the plan, called CARS, will provide significant support to reduce car thefts in Monroe, Erie, Niagara, and other counties that continue to experience this problem and streamline support for local law enforcement.

The plan will include fast-tracking $50 million for law enforcement technology and equipment, $5 million to enhance youth justice alternatives and diversion programming for teenagers and young adults, directing the State Police and Division of Criminal Justice Services to implement new enforcement efforts, supporting local district attorneys in the prosecution of car thefts and other crimes, and the launch of a public engagement campaign targeting vulnerable car owners.

"I want all the car thieves out there to know: You’ve reached the end of the road," Gov. Hochul said. "Too many New Yorkers have experienced the shock of waking up to an empty driveway or the heartbreak of seeing one of their most valuable possessions disappear, that is why we are supporting local law enforcement to prosecute and prevent these thefts, and ensuring car owners are taking appropriate steps to safeguard their vehicles."

Hochul has announced the Comprehensive Auto-Theft Reduction Strategy (CARS) to provide significant support to local law enforcement:

$50 Million in Law Enforcement Technology and Equipment

Last fall, Gov. Hochul announced an initial commitment of $20 million for law enforcement technology and equipment to help prevent, reduce, and solve crime, as well as build trust within communities. DCJS administered a request for information (RFI) to obtain feedback from police departments and sheriffs' offices on the types of technologies they need to improve public safety within their communities. DCJS received more than $44 million in requests for equipment, including license plate readers, mobile and fixed public camera systems, computer-aided dispatch systems and communication software, among other public safety equipment and technology.

$5 Million to Enhance Youth Justice Alternatives and Diversion Programming

Car thefts have reportedly been fueled by viral videos posted to social media, like TikTok, showing young people how to steal certain vehicle models, but also due to persistent disruptions that the pandemic created for criminal justice response and prevention efforts. Law enforcement agencies in communities experiencing the greatest increases report that teenagers and young adults ranging from 13 to 24 are most often arrested in connection with these thefts. These individuals frequently are associated with an organized group or crew. This plan will focus on strategies targeting teenagers and young adults who are at risk of, or interacting with, the police and the criminal justice system.

To address this rise in youth-involved property crime, Gov. Hochul is dedicating up to $5 million to enhance youth justice alternatives and diversion programs and services. Funding will be prioritized for the counties and adjacent counties that have reported increases in young people involved in motor vehicle theft and other property crime, such as Erie, Monroe, and Niagara. This investment will be paired with dedicated technical assistance from DCJS and the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to help build the capacity of local government and community-based organizations to intervene in the lives of these young people, change their thinking and behavior, and promote positive development.

Increase Enforcement and Data Sharing to Combat Car Thefts and Assist Local Partners

The New York State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) will increase the support they provide to local law enforcement agencies to address motor vehicle thefts throughout New York State.

Gov. Hochul is directing the New York State Police to ramp up enforcement, increase intrastate and interstate coordination, and partner with law enforcement in high-theft areas. In coordination with the state Department of Motor Vehicles, State Police will leverage existing partnerships with local, state, and federal law enforcement to increase investigations and crackdowns in high-theft areas and on the state’s highways, mirroring the work of the successful Multi-State Gun Trafficking Task Force.

The State Police also will deploy Community Stabilization Units to assist with enforcement and investigative efforts in Buffalo and Erie County, and Rochester and Monroe County and continue providing city and county agencies with highway and aerial support.

In addition, DCJS Crime Analysis Center Network and New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC), operated by the State Police, will continue to integrate and share state-of-the-art mapping and other investigative technologies with local partners. Currently, the state-supported Crime Analysis Centers in Erie, Monroe, and Niagara counties have dedicated crime analysts and deployed specific software to track, map, and analyze motor vehicle thefts to identify patterns and suspects to aid in enforcement. A new dashboard – MVTRAC (Motor Vehicle Theft, Recovery and Collaboration) – will be deployed to all 11 centers in the network and NYSIC. The dashboard will allow analysts and law enforcement personnel to use local and state data to visualize and connect theft locations, recovery locations, and suspect information. The FY2024 budget provided record funding for the network and that funding -- approximately $17 million per year -- will be instrumental in the development of this effective enforcement strategy.

Strengthening the Prosecution of Car Thefts

In Erie and Monroe counties, the disposition of car theft arrests has suffered greatly during the pandemic. The FY2024 budget provides additional funding ($52 million in aid to prosecution funding for all 62 district attorneys’ offices and $40 million in funding to support discovery reform implementation). Erie and Monroe County are receiving $3.9 and $2.6 million in discovery funds and $2.8 million and $1.9 million in aid to prosecution, respectively. We will continue to work with the respective district attorneys to support their efforts to deliver fair and swift justice.

Cooperation between the State, our law enforcement partners, including our District Attorneys is paramount to ensuring that these crimes are prosecuted effectively. Gov. Hochul will convene an interagency taskforce with the District Attorney Association of New York, the DAs of the counties with the highest rates of car thefts, and other law enforcement officials to work on strategies designed to deter and incapacitate offenders.

Featured Image Photo Credit: NYS Governor's Office