Hochul, in Rochester, unveils plan to combat car thefts

Posted 15 September 2023 at 3:52 pm

Initiative includes $55 million for law enforcement, prevention efforts

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

 Governor Kathy Hochul today announced a series of targeted actions to combat the high number of car thefts, particularly of certain Kia and Hyundai model vehicles, in counties across New York State called the Comprehensive Auto-Theft Reduction Strategy, CARS.

The Governor made the announcement with elected officials, local law enforcement, and state Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder at the Public Safety Building in the city of Rochester.

As violent crime continues to fall statewide, these actions 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.

These actions 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,” Governor Hochul said. “My top priority has always been keeping New Yorkers safe and today we are launching a new, comprehensive strategy to combat a surge in car thefts. 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.”

During the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, two crimes increased in the nation: murders linked to gun violence (+35 percent) and car thefts (+101 percent). Through targeted and evidence-driven legislative, policy, and budgetary strategies rooted in strong federal, state, and local partnerships, New York State has driven down murders and gun violence to the historic lows reported in 2017 through 2019.

Shootings in New York City are down 26 percent year over year, and in the state-funded Gun Involved Violence Elimination initiative jurisdictions, shootings declined 25 percent and fatal shootings decreased 35 percent through mid-August of this year compared to the same period of 2022.

Car thefts, however, have continued to rise, initially driven by the rise in catalytic converter thefts. In October 2022, Governor Hochul announced actions to crack down on those thefts, which have been on the decline. This year, car thefts have been fueled in select counties – Erie, Monroe and Niagara, as well as parts of New York City – by viral social media posts showing young people how to steal Kias and Hyundais.

In the first seven months of 2023, car theft in Monroe County increased 345 percent, which is the largest increase in the nation, and in Erie County, 213 percent, when compared to the same timeframe last year. These two counties account for approximately two-thirds of car thefts outside of New York City, with most of them occurring in the cities of Rochester (+829 percent) and Buffalo (+488 percent).

To address these unprecedented increases, Governor 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, Governor 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.

Funding will be disbursed on a rolling basis and prioritized for agencies within counties with the greatest proportions of car thefts and other crimes. Based on an analysis of initial requests from law enforcement agencies, the counties that are experiencing significant increases in car theft this year — Erie, Monroe, and Niagara – could receive up to $10 million for new technology and equipment.

$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.

To address this rise in youth-involved property crime, Governor 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.

Implement a Robust Public Engagement Campaign and Work Dealers to Inform Hyundai and Kia Owners

Governor Hochul is launching a public engagement campaign targeting owners of Kia and Hyundai vehicles most susceptible to theft, encouraging them to take precautions and to install anti-theft measures. This will include the state Department of Motor Vehicles contacting car owners directly and encouraging them to receive new software upgrades to their vehicles free of charge; read that letter by clicking here. Additionally, Governor Hochul has written to Auto Dealers associations, asking them to prioritize the repair and remediation of vulnerable vehicles across the state.

Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans said, “While we are far from declaring victory on the issue of gun violence, the focused leadership that Governor Hochul has brought to this issue is producing the kind of results that show us our strategies are working. So it is welcome news to see the Governor direct that kind of leadership to the issue of auto thefts, and I have no doubt it will be just as effective. I am grateful for her support on this critical issue, which is helping us create a safe, equitable and prosperous Rochester by inspiring hope and delivering opportunity for everyone.”