NEWARK – The shooting of a man and two young boys late Wednesday afternoon is another example of how stolen vehicles are used for criminal purposes, according to the city's Public Safety Directo

Shots were fired from a car stolen in Kearny on Irvine Turner Boulevard at West Kinney Street in Newark's Central Ward around 5:50 p.m., according to Public Safety Director Brian O’Hara.

Police responding to the shooting told NBC 4 New York they believe the gunman was targeting the 30-year-old man driver, who was hit several times.

The 4-year-old boy was struck in the face as he and his 7-year-old brother were sitting in the back seat of a Jeep, a witness told NBC 4 New York.

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The boys' mother took the wheel and drove their Jeep with the windows blown out two blocks to University Hospital, a security guard told NBC 4 New York.

The gunman's car was stolen with the keys left inside, according to O'Hara.

"We need people everywhere to stop leaving their cars unlocked with the key in them. This kind of carelessness is repeatedly contributing to violence and enabling more serious harm to occur in our communities," O'Hara said in a statement.

There were 14,320 vehicles stolen in New Jersey last year, the most since 2012. Data collection isn’t complete but the first quarter of this year is on track to have 37% more stolen cars than the same period in 2021 and 53% more than the same period in 2020, state officials said.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)
Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden (Dino Flammia, Townsquare Media NJ)

What to do about the high number of stolen cars?

State officials within the past week announced plans to spend $10 million in federal money initially intended for pandemic relief to help more police departments obtain automatic license plate readers.

The high-speed, automated camera systems capture and store computer-readable images of license plates in a centralized database accessible to law enforcement. The technology will be installed at both fixed locations and mounted on mobile units.

Monmouth County officials came together on Tuesday to encourage a statewide move toward stricter punishments for the individuals responsible for the thefts.

"We need stiffer penalties. We can not continue with catch-and-release when it comes to vehicle thefts," said Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden. "Something needs to be done to stop the madness."

Previous reporting by Michael Symons and Dino Flammia was used in this report.

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