EDISON — The owner of a food market says his son has been carjacked in the business parking lot twice.

The first time, thieves managed to get away with his Mercedes G-Class SUV. On Friday, however, the victim fought off three thieves in the Patel Brothers parking lot.

The incident prompted the township's Democratic mayor to call for tough-on-crime policies in the state and to meet with Attorney General Matt Platkin.

Police Chief Thomas Bryan posted images of three teens who dragged the driver out of his SUV and assaulted him in search of the key fob. The victim managed to get away with his key fob still in his pocket, according to the chief.

Kaushik Patel told ABC 7 Eyewitness News that his son only suffered some minor scratches and has returned to work at the market.

The incident prompted Mayor Sam Joshi to challenge fellow Democrats to increase criminal penalties and toughen "accountability" for juveniles who are convicted of serious crimes including home invasion, robbery, and auto theft.

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Suspects in attempted Edison carjacking 3/16/24
Suspects in attempted Edison carjacking 3/16/24 (Edison police)

Change the classification of burglaries for juveniles

The Democrat, along with other Middlesex County mayors, met with Attorney General Matt Platkin on Tuesday to discuss the issue.

"We had a very upfront conversation on the rise of burglaries and home invasions. Many mayors and chiefs echoed the same sentiments. I'm glad that the attorney general is really focused on this now. And I look forward to seeing some changes happening from their office as well as the Legislature," Joshi said.

The mayor said that the Legislature needs to change the classification of burglaries and home invasions.

Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in 2020 that eliminated fines as a penalty for juvenile offenders, limited when juveniles may be incarcerated and replaced mandatory post-incarceration supervision periods with discretionary ones.

Two years later, a provision in the bill that legalized the sale of marijuana in New Jersey also barred police from notifying parents on a first offense if their child was caught with alcohol or marijuana with no fines for underage users.

Officers could no longer arrest if a juvenile smells of alcohol or marijuana at risk of criminal prosecution. Murphy signed legislation in January relaxing that provision.

Large crowds of rowdy teens gathered on Jersey Shore boardwalks, often smoking and drinking, during the past few summers as local police could not arrest them. Many towns established curfews to prevent crowds and give officers a reason to make an arrest.

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Long Branch chaos on May 21, 2022. (TikTok user ogden1)
Long Branch chaos on May 21, 2022. (TikTok user ogden1)

"A proud and practical Democrat"

Joshi says the problems started during Gov. Chris Christie's administration with bail reform, which he calls a "big mistake." He supports Murphy's efforts to offer juveniles rehabilitation and a second chance but says there comes a time when that is not enough to deter criminal activity.

"It doesn't change the fact that gets to a point where we have to have a deterrent. And that deterrent is a fear of consequence. And that's really where we need to curtail the measures that we're taking right now so it's more practical in terms of implementation," Joshi said.

During the meeting with Platkin, Joshi said he brought up having juveniles tried in the same county where a crime was committed rather than in Family Court.

Joshi said he is proud of the firm stands he has taken on migrants coming to Edison on buses from Texas and on juvenile crime.

Lisa McCormick of the group Democrats for Change, a former Edison resident, called Joshi's stands "cowardly, misguided, and potentially harmful to our democracy." She was critical of the township's "excessive spending" on automated license plate readers and computer-controlled camera systems.

"I'm a proud and practical Democrat and I recognize that both parties have extreme views," Joshi said. "I think that we need to be more practical with our solutions and things either work or don't. And that doesn't mean we have to swing the pendulum one way or the other. We have to be down the road and listening to what the residents, what the actual voters and how our community feels rather than just listening to very vocal advocates."

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