New Jersey bill seeks to deter cargo theft

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/11/2012

A push in New Jersey to stiffen punishment for truck thieves is off to a good start at the statehouse.

New Jersey law now classifies truck theft as a property crime, which often doesn’t result in jail time. The Assembly Judiciary Committee voted on Monday, Dec. 10, to advance a bill – A3003 – to include truck theft as a criminal offense.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, R-Monmouth, said the amount of cargo that’s transported through New Jersey ports makes motor carriers a target for cargo theft rings.

She referred to figures that show thieves in the Garden State steal as much as $1 billion worth of cargo annually.

“By passing A3003 our state will be one step closer to providing companies and drivers added protection with harsher financial penalties and mandatory minimum imprisonment terms for repeat offenders,” Casagrande told panel members.

The bill specifies that anyone who steals a truck would at least face second degree criminal charges. The distinction carries a $250,000 fine.

Repeat offenders would also get at least 120 days in jail. Subsequent offenses would result in 270 days behind bars. The terms would double if the crime involved a weapon.

OOIDA Director of Security Operations Doug Morris said the bill is a step in the right direction to help protect truck drivers and their property, but more severe punishment is necessary. He urged lawmakers to make the punishment for cargo theft consistent with crimes such as bank robbery.

“In areas such as New Jersey there are cargo theft rings that are thriving. They continue to pop up because when they get caught they’re right back out on the street and doing it again,” Morris told Land Line.

Morris also said that providing truckers with safe places to park is needed to address this issue.

Gail Toth, executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association, pointed out to lawmakers before the vote that cargo theft victimizes more than just truck drivers.

“Cargo theft has a significant impact on our economy. Ultimately everyone pays for cargo theft at the cash register,” Toth said.

A3003 could soon get consideration on the Assembly floor. If approved there, it would move to the Senate.

New Jersey has a two-year legislative session. Any bills introduced in 2012 that are still active can be picked up from where they left off after the first of the year.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

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