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July is National Theft Prevention Month – Safeguard Your Vehicle Today 

July is national theft prevention month - stolen car laws in NJ and PA

July marks a significant observance in the automotive calendar—National Theft Prevention Month. As we dive deeper into the sunshine and waves of summer, it’s important to recognize that vehicle theft rates traditionally surge during this period, posing an increased risk to vehicle owners. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) emphasizes this threat with startling statistics, reporting over 1 million vehicle thefts annually. This ongoing issue not only highlights the persistent risk of car theft, but also stresses the necessity of vigilance among car owners. 

The Law Offices of Vincent J. Ciecka is sending this blog to remind all car and motor vehicle owners to be vigilant about keeping their keys and vehicles secure. Neglecting this can result in being held responsible for injuries caused by stolen vehicles. Additionally, Ciecka Law wants to inform those injured by stolen cars that they may still have legal recourse for their injuries and damages against the vehicle owner. Contact us immediately if an accident occurs so we can begin an investigation while the facts are fresh. 

This heightened risk during July offers a prime opportunity for vehicle owners to boost their awareness and implement proactive measures to safeguard their vehicles. The NHTSA’s alarming data serves as a reminder of the ever-present danger of vehicle theft and the need for more robust security practices. By understanding the risks at hand and taking the appropriate actions forward, car owners can greatly reduce their chances of becoming theft victims, making National Theft Prevention Month the perfect time to spread awareness and promote effective theft deterrent strategies. 

The Growing Concern of Vehicle Theft 

Vehicle theft is far more than a personal inconvenience; it represents a major portion of a multi-billion-dollar criminal industry that negatively affects thousands of Americans each year. The unsettling statistics from 2023 highlight a 1% increase in vehicle thefts from the previous year, with 1 car stolen every 31 seconds in the United States. This data from the NHTSA not only demonstrates the growing boldness and sophistication of auto thieves, but also underlines the broader impact on individuals and communities suffering from car theft all across the nation. As vehicles remain a staple in daily life, the repercussions of theft extend beyond immediate loss. Losing accessibility to your primary mode of transportation can affect people’s ability to work, ability to maintain personal safety, and their ability to manage their daily responsibilities. 

This increase in vehicle thefts signals an urgent need for enhanced preventive measures and also more informed vehicle ownership. Owners are encouraged to become proactive in protecting their cars and other automative vehicles by adopting advanced security measures, such as improved alarm systems, GPS tracking, and immobilizing devices. Furthermore, public awareness campaigns and community policing efforts are critical when it comes to educating vehicle owners about the real risk of car theft and preventative anti-theft strategies. By taking collective action, we can hope to curb the rising tide of vehicle thefts and mitigate their impact on society so we can get back to enjoying the ocean waves, not the tides of theft. 

High-Risk States 

There are certain states that have higher incidences of vehicle theft, including: 

  • California 
  • Texas 
  • Florida 
  • Washington 
  • Illinois 
  • Colorado 
  • New York 
  • Ohio 
  • Georgia 
  • Missouri 

Owners in these states should be particularly vigilant, given their higher risk profiles. Even if you don’t live in one of these states, it’s still important to stay proactive and keep your eyes open wide for any potential vehicle theft threats. 

Effective Theft Prevention Tips 

Common Sense Measures 

The foundational step in theft prevention is employing common sense when parking your vehicle: 

  • Secure Your Vehicle: Always take your keys with you, lock all windows and doors, and park in well-lit areas. 
  • Remove Valuables: Never leave valuables such as phones, laptops, or bags in plain view as these attract thieves. 

Technological Aids 

Leverage technology to further secure your vehicle: 

  • Audible and Visible Devices: Car alarms and steering-wheel locks act as strong deterrents. 
  • Immobilizing Devices: Systems that prevent hot-wiring, like smart keys and kill switches, add a layer of security. 
  • Vehicle Recovery Systems: Technologies like GPS tracking can help recover your vehicle if stolen. 

NHTSA’s Role in Theft Prevention 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plays a crucial role in addressing vehicle theft, a significant criminal activity that affects numerous Americans each year. NHTSA’s regulations require vehicle manufacturers to label major components and replacement parts, which helps in tracing and recovering stolen items. This regulatory effort is complemented by encouraging manufacturers to install passive anti-theft devices as standard equipment on new vehicles. By integrating these measures, NHTSA aims to decrease the rates of vehicle theft across the nation, making it easier for law enforcement to identify and recover stolen vehicles. 

In addition to regulatory actions, NHTSA is deeply invested in educational outreach. They provide a wealth of resources designed to educate vehicle owners about the risks of vehicle theft and the best preventive measures to take. These resources, available in both English and Spanish, include fact sheets, infographics, and comprehensive guides that are distributed through various channels and partner organizations. This educational initiative is crucial for empowering vehicle owners with the knowledge to protect their vehicles effectively and to recognize the signs of potential theft activities around them. 

Highlighting the importance of awareness, NHTSA spearheads the annual Vehicle Theft Prevention Month every July. This campaign serves as a focal point to enhance public understanding of vehicle theft risks and the effective steps that can be taken to mitigate these risks. During this month, NHTSA goes to great lengths to illustrate the economic and personal impacts of vehicle theft, further emphasizing the critical need for vigilance and proactive security measures. By promoting this annual observance, NHTSA not only educates the public but also fosters a collective effort to tackle vehicle theft at both the community and national levels. 

What to Do If Your Vehicle Is Stolen 

Despite all precautions, if you find yourself a victim of vehicle theft, take the following steps immediately: 

  1. Report to Police: The first and most critical action is to file a stolen-vehicle report with your local police department. This report serves as an official record and is crucial for both recovery efforts and insurance claims. Provide the police with as much information as possible, including the license plate number, make, model, color of your vehicle, and any distinctive features. A detailed description can increase the chances of recovering your vehicle. 
  1. Inform Your Insurance: Contact your insurance company within 24 hours to file a claim. Your insurance provider will need a copy of the police report and other details about the incident and the vehicle. This step is essential for financial recovery, as it initiates the process for potential compensation under your policy. 
  1. Vehicle Recovery: If you locate your vehicle before the authorities do, it’s imperative to contact the police and your insurance company immediately. Do not attempt to recover the vehicle yourself as it may put you at risk or interfere with police investigations. Coordinating with the authorities ensures that any evidence is preserved, and that the recovery process is handled legally and safely. 

Following these steps promptly can majorly aid in the quick resolution of the theft and also may help in mitigating any further complications. Remember, the quicker you act, the higher the likelihood of recovering your car and minimizing potential losses. 

Understanding Vehicle Theft Laws in New Jersey and Pennsylvania 

New Jersey’s Stance on Vehicle Theft 

In New Jersey, vehicle theft and related crimes are met with severe consequences. The state classifies stealing a motor vehicle as an indictable crime, punishable by three to five years of imprisonment and fines up to $15,000 for third-degree offenses. If the vehicle is valued at over $75,000 or multiple vehicles are involved, the crime escalates to the second degree, increasing potential imprisonment to 5-10 years and fines up to $150,000. Repeat offenders face even harsher penalties, highlighting New Jersey’s stringent measures against vehicle theft. 

Receiving and Joyriding Penalties in New Jersey 

Beyond theft, New Jersey law also penalizes receiving a stolen vehicle and joyriding. Receiving a stolen vehicle is deemed a serious crime, with penalties mirroring those of theft, emphasizing the state’s commitment to curbing this illicit activity. Joyriding, or the “unlawful taking of means of conveyance,” although considered less severe, still carries penalties of up to 18 months in prison for fourth-degree offenses, with increased penalties if the act involves risks to persons or property. 

Vehicle Theft in Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania’s laws reflect a similar rigor in combating vehicle theft. The state prosecutes motor vehicle theft as a third-degree felony, irrespective of the vehicle’s value, potentially leading to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. This uniform approach underlines the seriousness with which Pennsylvania treats all instances of vehicle theft. 

Carjacking and Joyriding in Pennsylvania 

Pennsylvania’s definition of carjacking does not necessarily involve force or threat, distinguishing it from many other states. This broader definition leads to more severe consequences, with carjacking punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Conversely, joyriding is treated as a second-degree misdemeanor, with potential penalties including two years of imprisonment. 

The Intersection of Vehicle Theft and the Role of Personal Injury Attorneys 

Theft and carjacking incidents not only pose a direct threat to property but also significantly increase the risk of car accidents. These accidents can lead to severe injuries or even fatalities, necessitating the involvement of a car accident attorney or personal injury lawyer. Victims of such incidents may require legal representation to navigate the complexities of insurance claims and potential personal injury lawsuits. 

For victims requiring legal representation after such incidents, The Law Offices of Vincent J. Ciecka provide seasoned advocacy and support. Founded in 1976, our firm has established a strong presence in handling personal injury cases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Known for our dedication to clients and deep understanding of the nuances in vehicle theft-related accidents, we offer comprehensive services that cover everything from insurance negotiations to courtroom proceedings. Our commitment to winning your case ensures that you receive not only legal justice, but also the necessary support to navigate your recovery. 

Conclusion: Strengthening Security and Seeking Justice 

Theft prevention month serves as a reminder of the ongoing risks of vehicle theft and its broader implications, including the increased likelihood of car accidents. Understanding the legal landscapes of New Jersey and Pennsylvania can help residents better protect themselves and their property. Should the worst occur, and a theft-related car accident happens, knowing the role of a car accident lawyer or personal injury attorney in navigating the aftermath is invaluable. Personal injury attorneys, specifically, are crucial in these scenarios, providing the legal expertise and support needed to manage the consequences effectively. This July, take a moment to assess your car’s security and ensure you are prepared to handle any situation, legally and safely. 


  1. NJ Rev Stat § 2C (2023) 
  1. 18 PA Cons Stat § (2023) 
  1. Vehicle Theft Prevention – NHTSA 

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