Monroe County will get help to combat the high rate of car thefts through the state’s Comprehensive Auto-Theft Reduction Strategy. It joins Erie, Niagara and other counties in New York that are experiencing the same problem.
A range of actions are in the works, including fast-tracking $50 million for law enforcement technology and equipment and $5 million to enhance youth justice alternatives and diversion programming for teenagers and young adults, state officials say.
The State Police and Division of Criminal Justice Services will be directed to implement new enforcement efforts, supporting local district attorneys in the prosecution of car thefts and other crimes. A public engagement campaign targeting vulnerable car owners is also part of the plan.
“To all the car thieves out there, I have one message: You’ve reached the end of the road,” says Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was in Rochester for the announcement.
In the first seven months of 2023, car thefts in Monroe County increased 345 percent, which is the largest increase in the nation, and in Erie County, 213 percent, compared with the same time last year. The two counties account for roughly two-thirds of car thefts outside New York City, state officials say.
“When you have one outlier, one category of crime that is driving up all the rest, that’s a real challenge for us,” Hochul says.
Last year, the governor committed $20 million for law enforcement technology and equipment to help prevent, reduce and solve crime and build community trust. The state Division of Criminal Justice Services received more than $44 million in requests for equipment. Hochul secured $50 million in the fiscal 2024 budget to fund these needs and DCJS now will expedite the funding to assist law enforcement agencies.
Funding will be disbursed on a rolling basis and prioritized for agencies within counties with the largest number of car thefts and other crimes. The counties with significant increases in car theft this year—Monroe, Erie, and Niagara—could receive up to $10 million for new technology and equipment, the state says.
As much as $5 million will go toward enhancing youth justice alternatives and diversion programs and services. Funding will be prioritized for counties like Monroe that have reported increases in youth involvement in motor vehicle theft and other property crime. Paired with assistance from DCJS and the Office of Children and Family Services, this approach will help build the capacity of local government and community-based organizations to intervene in young people’s lives, using restorative justice practices, creative arts, athletics, and skill development as tactics.
“While we are far from declaring victory on the issue of gun violence, the focused leadership that Gov. Hochul has brought to this issue is producing the kind of results that show us our strategies are working,” says Rochester Mayor Malik Evans. “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.”
To strengthen prosecution of these crimes, Monroe County will receive $2.6 million in discovery funds and $1.9 million in prosecution aid. In addition, the State Police and DCJS will increase their support to local law enforcement agencies to address motor vehicle thefts. DCJS’ Crime Analysis Center Network and New York State Intelligence Center, operated by the State Police, will continue to integrate and share mapping and other investigative technologies with local partners, state officials say.
An interagency task force, convened by Hochul, 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 will work on strategies to deter and incapacitate offenders.
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected].